SAM COMEN PHOTOGRAPHY
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The Newest Americans

Saying the word immigration has become an invitation to an argument. Perhaps that was always true. On the one hand, our history supplies countless examples of the sins and transgressions committed in our ceaseless struggle to say who has the right to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. On the other hand, we call ourselves a nation of immigrants and take pride in the mythology of the melting pot.

In the months following a bitter election that saw the definition of what it means to be an American called into question, we witnessed 20,000 people become naturalized U.S. Citizens.

We asked how they came to this country. We asked what the American Dream means to them. We asked these newest Americans if they had a message for the new President.

 

REPORTING BY MICHAEL ESTRIN - PHOTOGRAPHS BY SAM COMEN

 

--These photos were made and interviews conducted in the moments immediately prior to and following two naturalization ceremonies in Los Angeles in February and March of 2017.--

Chinalurum Okpara

Chinalurum Okpara

Country of Origin: Nigeria

I’ve been here for five years. I got married in Nigeria and I came here to join my husband, who is an American. We have one child and we’re planning to have another one. I wanted to become a citizen because there are a lot of things going on right now, but if you’re a citizen you are free to both serve the country and also to say what you think and do what you want without fear that something will happen, that you will be deported. It feels so good to be a citizen because it’s for the rest of your life. It’s a very big day for me. I feel so good and so honored. I’m so grateful to be a citizen.

I was saying to my husband during the election I want to vote so bad. I’ve never voted before, and I wanted to be able to have a say. But of course, I couldn’t vote then. But now I can, just like my husband. I can vote for whoever I want, and that’s so exciting. Because imagine you are wishing for someone to be President, but you cannot vote for them because you do not have that right. But then you become a citizen and you do have that right to vote, so you can say, I want this person to be my President.

Message to the President: I think he’s going to do well for our country, and I look forward to seeing what he can do.

Gixia Yang Philippe

Gixia Yang Philippe

Country of Origin: China

I feel like I want to cry because I'm so, so happy. I waited for long time to become a citizen – an American citizen.

Tony Jeffries

Tony Jeffries

Country of Origin: England

I represented Great Britain in the 2008 Olympics. I was very, very proud of that.

I actually beat the American in the Olympic qualifiers. So he couldn’t go to Olympics, but I did. I feel like Great Britain and America are like brother and sister. So, I’m not leaving the family. I’m still in the family; I’m just moving to a different house. That’s the way I look at it.

When I first moved here, I just enjoyed the weather. And then, the “dream” hit me. There are things I can do here that I never could’ve done in England because here the dream is as big as you can imagine it. The American Dream, for me, is opportunities. America is the land of opportunity, like they say. And I think I’m a perfect example of that, what I’ve done. I came here with my Olympic medal for boxing and I started a business, and now I employ more than 50 Americans. I’ve been on television shows, modeling, you name it. It’s all so much opportunity that you don’t get anywhere else.

Message to the President:: I would just like him to keep everyone safe and to the best he can. That’s really it. The only thing I worry about is war. I wish that everyone is safe and there’s no war and there’s always peace and all that. That’s what I wish. The one thing I would tell him… I mean, sort out the guns, get rid of the guns.

Ana Young

Ana Young

Country of Origin: Philippines

I came here for a visit. I met someone. We fell in love. We got married. And now we have a child. So this is my home, it’s where I’ve made a family. But every time we leave the country, my family has the blue passport and I don’t, so I go in a different line. And I thought, it’s time for me to get the blue passport, to be like my husband and my child.

The American Dream for me is fulfilling all of my childhood dreams. When I was studying to become a nurse, I remember thinking I want to go to America because a nurse can make good money in America and so you can afford whatever you want. Maybe that’s not a good answer to say, for the job. It’s not just for the job. I feel excited because my family will eventually be able to settle here too and join my husband’s side of the family. So it’s the economic opportunity, but that opportunity is good because it means my family can be together.

Message to the President: I’m not political. In regards to President Trump, good or bad, I can’t say anything – yet. We will wait and see.

Brenzil Ashton

Brenzil Ashton

Country of Origin: St. Vincent and the Grenadines

I chose to become a citizen because I love being here more than anywhere else. I came here 14 years ago and right away it felt like home.

Message to the President:Good luck! And look forward to you doing good things for us.

Freddy Castro

Freddy Castro

Country of Origin: Ecuador

It feels great to know that I’m going to be able to participate in the electoral process. I’ve been waiting to vote my whole life. I’ve never voted before. Voting is important because it gives each person the power to decide and make choices for their life. I like the fact that we have freedom to be who we choose to be. So, for example, I am transgender. I am able to be who I am without being discriminated against, at least that’s true here in California. So I’m looking forward to being involved in the politics here so I can help people like me be protected by the law.

Message to the President: Think before speaking.

Flora Domingo 

Flora Domingo 

Country of Origin: Belize

I have lived here 32 years. What better thing than to become a citizen. I love the country. This is home for me.

The American Dream means all of the opportunities that America can offer. My son can become a U.S. Marshal; my daughter can go to USC and become a social worker. The sky is the limit.

Message to thePresident: It’s true that we have to screen people. But once they pass, welcome them. That’s what this country is about.

[Pictured with daughter Karen Domingo at left.]

Durdu Fidikci

Durdu Fidikci

Country of Origin: Turkey

My wife is an American citizen, and she brought me here. We met in Turkey, in my pastry shop. She had been in Germany and some of her friends told her to come to my shop to try my baklava. So one day I saw this American woman in my shop, she’s eating my baklava. I wanted to talk to her, to practice my English. I always talk to American tourists to practice my English. But this woman, it was special and we fell and love. That’s how we met. That’s why I wanted to come to America and become a citizen, to be with her.

Being here, it’s freedom. You can do whatever you want and work how you want. And make more money. It’s the chance that God gave me, a good chance. Being here is like a dream come true.

Message to thePresident: I like to watch the news. Sometimes I hear him say something really good about terrorism. I hate terrorism. I think we all have to live together. We are all breathing the same air, eating the same food. I don’t like fighting and killing. I hope he will fix that. I like him for that. But other things, I don’t want to see him deport anybody. He doesn’t need to do that.

Farida Baliwala

Farida Baliwala

Country of Origin: Pakistan

I first came here in 1979. My children were born here. I moved back to Pakistan, and I came back 10 years ago to be with my family. Here, there is an opportunity for education that doesn’t really exist in other places. My oldest son is an MBA. My daughter is a dentist. My youngest son is studying engineering. Only in America.

The American Dream means safety and security. But mainly America means honesty. Everything is so straightforward and honest here because we have rights. I feel the people who were born here take freedom for granted. People who come from other parts of the world, they are more appreciative of this place. Freedom means if you feel something wrong is happening, you can speak up, even to the government. You can say the government is wrong, and that’s ok.

I feel happy today, very proud to be here. I’m very thankful to God that I got this opportunity to be here and explore this beautiful country.

Message to the President: I hope America stays the same as it is, and I’m sure it will because of the law.

Martina Bautista

Martina Bautista

Country of Origin: Mexico

I voted when I lived in Mexico, but voting here will be very different because we really do get to choose the people who represent us. That’s not the case in Mexico. But here, the vote is real.

I want Americans to know that Mexicans have good values that come from strong family roots. We have our values from our parents and we pass them on to our children. That’s who we are. We are mirrors of our parents, and our children are mirrors of us. Those are the values we bring to America, those are the values we contribute.

Message to the President: To our President I say, I want to touch your heart. The Latino and Hispanic people that come here, we come here only to work, to have a better life and give a better life to our families. So I say to the President, God bless you, and we are going to pray to God so you change your heart, so you can see that all of the immigrants here just want to work hard and be good people.

Richard Daudu

Richard Daudu

Country of Origin: Nigeria

Back home, it’s all about influence, you know? It’s all about who you know; your true potential may go to waste because you’re not connected with the right people. Here, you still have to know the right people, of course, but you can meet them. It’s open here; anybody can become anything in the United States, if they put in the work. I want to become a pharmacist. I’ve got one more quarter before I finish my degree in biology.

Message to the President: Wow, there’s a lot to say to the President. I would say he has to realize that the world changing a lot, and change is something that is constant. People need to be open to change. You can try to take the country back to sixty years ago, but the truth is this is 2017. Also, he has to consider the fact this is the United States. It’s the most diverse country on the planet. That’s what makes it great. You have people from different parts of the world coming with different ideas and they’re bringing everything to the United States.

Solina Safaei

Solina Safaei

Country of Origin: Iran

I came for education. I'm a dentist. I came here for a seminar and I realized – oh my God – dentistry here is far beyond my imagination. So I decided to become a dentist here, and now I'm a dentist in the United States. I felt that in my country, as a dentist, I reached the highest point I could. You know, we have so many obstacles in Iran. But here, you know, there’s no limit. You can go far, go where you want, you know? Here, I have freedom. Here, as an educated woman, I have an easier life.

Felipe Ramirez

Felipe Ramirez

Country of Origin: Mexico

I was supposed to be born here. My mom had legal status, but she wasn’t a citizen. She was pregnant with me when she decided to go on vacation to Mexico. Then I popped out early. I was born in a place where we had no family, no connection.

My whole life, except for the first few weeks, has been here. I was raised in Orange County. When I was 19, I got in trouble with the law. I had a piece of wood in my car and the cop said it was a deadly weapon. I thought that was crazy; it wasn’t a deadly weapon. But they sent me to jail, maybe because the cops were a little more racist back then, I don’t know. Anyway, my public defender said, just plead guilty and you’re out. So I plead guilty, but I thought I was just pleading guilty to the speeding ticket, not the deadly weapon. Small mistakes can make a big difference. When I realized the mistake, I thought there goes all my hopes. And so all this time, I’ve been in limbo. But my wife researched it and she said, we can clear this up.

But to become a citizen, I knew I would have to take a test, and that made me nervous because my reading wasn’t good. So I did adult literacy classes. Once I got that done, I was ready for the citizenship test. It’s not a hard test, I thought it would be hard because people like to say it’s hard to discourage you. But it’s basic questions I already knew from going to high school here. My whole life here I never felt good enough or comfortable enough to say I could be an American. That’s on me. But once I got that confidence, I went for it. That’s why today is so exciting. It’s excitement you can’t explain, because you’ve accomplished something really big.

Marion Borda

Marion Borda

Country of Origin: Bolivia

I came here six years ago to find work. I work at a company that makes small loans to people. That’s not something I could’ve done in Bolivia. I think that’s the American Dream – opportunity. But that’s how the dream looks from the outside. When you’re actually here, it’s a lot more difficult. You have to work hard for everything, and there’s no guarantee the dream will come true. I am a citizen now, and that is part of the dream, so today I feel like I don’t have to worry about my status. That’s good a good feeling.

[Pictured with daughters Angela at left and Camila at right.]

Anis Chaudry

Anis Chaudry

Country of Origin: Pakistan

Religious fanatics killed one of my brothers in Pakistan. The killers were Muslim and we are Muslims, but because we are from a different sect, so they don’t recognize us as Muslims. This is the mentality of terrorist fanatics. And this has been the reality of Pakistan all my life – violence.

For my parents, education was the most important thing. I became an electrical engineer, and for a long time I worked in Abu Dhabi doing IT for an oil company. Abu Dhabi is nice, but it was never home because you can buy a house and build a life, but you know that the day after your visa is up, you will be kicked out of the country. So after almost 30 years, I left Abu Dhabi and I came here because a lot of my family had settled here. America feels like home, especially when you shut off the news and talk to people, because the people are very nice.

Now, that I am a citizen, I feel like the world is mine. I can travel freely – something I couldn’t always do. I can pray without fear of fanatics.

Maria Villagordoa

Maria Villagordoa

Country of Origin: Mexico

My mom made the decision to come here for a better life and because she wanted me to have an education. I was 12 when we moved here. I was scared and nervous because it was a big change for me – new language, new culture. But then I started to adapt and make friends. When I had friends, I felt like I belonged, like this was my home.

I can’t describe taking the citizenship oath; it’s just amazing and overwhelming. Citizenship means opportunities for scholarships and jobs. That’s important for me. I’m in college right now, studying political science. I want to be lawyer. I don’t know what kind of law I’ll practice, but I’m thinking maybe family law, so I can help people who need help.

Message to the President: I respect him. But it’s wrong to make stereotypes about people based on race or religion. It’s just wrong, and he shouldn’t do that.

Rupesh Jeyaram

Rupesh Jeyaram

Country of Origin: India

I’ve been here for 16 years. I was three years old when I came here. So it was my parent’s decision to come here. America feels like home, it always has. India also feels like home. I feel comfortable wherever I am. At the end of the day, the Earth is my home. But I feel like America has more opportunities than anywhere else. Life for me would have been very different in India. Right now I’m a student at Caltech. We’re working on the most cutting edge stuff you could imagine, from quantum theory to evolution – everything is going on there. The same things are being done in India, but not to the same degree, not at the same level. Here, I’m able to express my full potential. I’m going to be working at the Jet Propulsion Lab this summer, I would not have been able to come anywhere close to a national space agency in India.

My dream is a work in progress. I want to make something that helps a lot of people. That’s very vague thing to say, I know. I would say 100 percent that America helped shaped that dream, because I would not have had the audacity to say I want to make something that helps millions of people if I was still in India. Being here, there’s a passion for inventing and knowing that your innovation is respected and valued.

I was crying during the oath. It was pretty emotional. I didn’t think I was going to cry, but at the same time it didn’t surprise. When I sat down I was pretty cool, but after five minutes listening to the judge, it got to me. Then it was over, and I felt like it was back to normal.

I’m going to call my parents and say thank you. I don’t think I have time to celebrate because I have some problems sets that I have to get to.

Message to the President: By allowing immigration, by allowing refugees, by allowing people who are looking for a better life to come to America. You are not letting in so-called rapists, or terrorists, or murderers. You are letting in people who respect the U.S. Constitution and who bring with them their ideals and their values. And if you don’t respect that, at least respect that those people are bringing in their innovation and their creativity, and that’s only going to make the U.S. stronger.

 Sydonie Asoh

Sydonie Asoh

Country of Origin: Cameroon

I was picked for the Green Card lottery. I was so excited because this is a country with job opportunities that we don’t have where I’m from. I knew that I could come here and work and help people in my home country. I am a nurse and I’m continuing my studies.

America is like a lion. It’s the king of all countries. It’s the most powerful and it’s really respected because it actually helps other countries to be better, to have what they need. To me, that’s the American Dream, to be able to help people. I really trust in the American Dream because here I can be safe and I can study and get knowledge that helps people.

Message to the President: Actually, he is my favorite person because he says the truth to you. He is a radical, but I love it. I love his strength and how he leads people.

 

Maria Teresa Cervantes

Maria Teresa Cervantes

Country of Origin: Mexico

I came to the U.S. in 1941. I raised a family here. My daughter is with me. She’s a sheriff’s deputy in Los Angeles. My grandson is with me, too. He’s a marine. This is a very exciting day for me, for my whole family. I’m very happy and proud because this is the American Dream – to make a better life for your family. I have contributed to this country, and I feel very patriotic right now. So I decided that I wanted to become a citizen after all these years because I feel like it’s a privilege to be a citizen, and I’ve earned that.

[Pictured with daughter Lorraine at left, and grandson Jonathan Anda, center.]

 Harutyun Mkrtchyan

Harutyun Mkrtchyan

Country of Origin: Armenia

It feels good to be a citizen. I came 16 years ago and now I’m legal, so I am happy. I came as a tourist and I loved it. I loved the life here and the beautiful women. 

My American Dream is to be a businessman here. I am a jeweler. I was a jeweler in Armenia, but you couldn’t really do anything there. It was a Soviet country, you understand? Here, it’s not more freedom, it’s freedom—period. So I can buy gold and jewels and make things that are really beautiful, and sell them, and turn my business into something big, and nobody says no. I can do anything here.

Message to the President: I have lived here with two Presidents. Bush and then Obama. I think it’s the same no matter who is President. But now there is manufacturing leaving and we need it to come back. That would be good.

Fernidod Gongora

Fernidod Gongora

Country of Origin: Mexico

I am a musician. I sing, dance, and play percussion. I came here 30 years ago when I fell in love with my husband. We were together for 20 years before he passed away. I studied anthropology in Mexico and I did a master’s degree in Costa Rica in sustainable tourism. For the last 12 years, I went back to and forth to Mexico to work with my people, to be with my people. I wanted to give my knowledge. But I was very disappointed with the way things were in Mexico. In Mexico, there is a lot of diversity but it’s controlled by certain mentally that is very closed. Here, we are diverse and it’s much more open – there are different ways of thinking, of doing things. I like that. So I decided to come back and apply for citizenship so I could stay, because this is home, this is where I can feel like a human being – as a woman, as a professional, with my spirituality.

Message to the President: Well, one of the messages that I have is I understand the point of view of other Americans, you know, of taking care of this country first. I understand what they say about too many immigrants, illegal people. They accuse us of being rapist and killers. But my message is this: have you walked the streets and seen all these homeless people? All those people that are on drugs, wandering around that are American people who were born here? None of those people that are lost and living as a homeless on the streets under the bridges are Mexicans. They are people born in this country. I think that if there is so much wealth in the country it shouldn't be happening. 

Viktoria Karmazina

Viktoria Karmazina

ountry of Origin: Ukraine

Message to the President: My home country is struggling right now. I’m worried about it. But I hope that with the new President, he will support my homeland. So I would say to him to make America great again, as he promised, and keep to this country safe. God bless America.


Iqbal Rashid

Iqbal Rashid

Country of Origin: Pakistan

I'm a physician, so I came here for postgraduate training. America is supposed to be about equal opportunities and equal justice – that’s a good combination to have in any society. So America was appealing because of the educational and career opportunities, but also because I could practice my religion freely and do whatever I want, within the law.

Obviously, things have changed dramatically since the election. But I think, in the bigger picture of things, the people are still the same people. I think that’s thing that keeps America together – the diversity that we have. Everybody brings different things from different perspectives. With all the hatred and everything right now, it’s not just Muslims like me that are being affected. An Indian guy was killed just because people thought he was an Arab. There were the attacks on Jewish cemeteries. That’s a phobia. But if hate is propagated it does not have an end; it’s like a ball of fire, it just burns everything down. But if love is propagated, if love is encouraged, if love is the norm and we speak of tolerance, and letting people be who they are, then I think this is a universal brotherhood, and we can have that in America.

We are all immigrants – everybody. The only people who can claim this land originally are the Native Americans. So the idea that someone else has more of a right to be here than me, that’s unacceptable. That’s why I became a citizen. I have the same feelings about serving this country and contributing. My skin color or my religion does not change anything. So I’m just as patriotic as anybody else. I'm just as American as anybody else and I have a certificate to prove it. So I am sorry if you feel otherwise; that’s your alternative facts, not the reality.

Message to the President: You know, I think it’s a message of unity, of love. Yes, he is my president and I don’t agree with all of his policies, but as long as his policies are within the realm of the Constitution, within the realm of humanity, within the realm of reason – I would be with him 100 percent. But if he goes against those things, I am a check on that. I did not take the oath to just blindly follow the President. I took the oath to protect the Constitution, and that is what I plan to do.

Roshanak Mohammadi

Roshanak Mohammadi

Country of Origin: Iran

Message to thePresident: All people, all over the world, can live together in friendship and safety. I think war is a plague. But it’s possible to be happy, and to be safe, and to be free.

Pablo Martinez

Pablo Martinez

Country of Origin: Mexico

I came to this country 27 years ago. I feel good to be an American citizen because it means I am safe. I wasn’t safe living in Chiapas, but I’m safe here. I want Americans to understand that the place I was born is not safe for me, and that here I have security and that’s important.

The American Dream is simple. It’s to live with your family and for them to have opportunity to do whatever they want to do.

Message to the President: Well, to my President, the only thing I would like to say to him is to be a bit more considerate with the Mexicans. If he wants to change the law, ok, but he should understand that there are a lot of problems on both sides of the border with drug addiction and drug smuggling. If he wants to do something about those problems, I praise him.

Ghassan Merrawi

Ghassan Merrawi

ountry of Origin: Syria

I’ve been here permanently for five years. Before that, I was going back and forth. I finished college in Syria and then I moved here and worked. Since I was a kid, I loved the United States; I love the history. I love, love this country. I love everything about it: politics, the education, and entertainment. I love the sports here, especially football. I was a 49ers fan, but since the Rams moved to Los Angeles, I decided to become a Rams fan – hometown team.

The American Dream means opportunity and success. You can be happy here. I mean, people will try to discourage you, but I’m happy. I can be who I want. A lot of people say an immigrant can’t be a Trump supporter, but I am. I love politics and being a citizen means I get to be part of that, so I registered to be a Republican. You know California is a blue state, so people say my vote doesn’t matter, but I think it counts. I’m looking forward to voting in the next election.

Message to the President: Stick to your promises. You know, we have high hope for Trump. So if he’s not going to be able to change it, well, we’re screwed. He’s the first outsider to be the President, so if he’s not going to stick to his promises, we're screwed.

Katya Sonina

Katya Sonina

Country of Origin: Russia

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be an American. I grew up in Moscow and lived all over Europe. My parents always said, stay in Europe, but I said America. They said, of course you can go to America, but they didn’t mean it, not seriously. But I’m a concert pianist, and so one day I auditioned for Julliard, and I got in! So that’s how I came to America.

I started at Julliard two weeks before 9/11. It was a very traumatic time because I was so happy to be at Julliard and in America, but there was this horrible tragedy. But what I saw in New York was people coming together. I saw love breaking down walls and healing grief. I saw that and I felt like this is my country.

This is a country that gives people a chance. You can be who you are here without apologizing for it. That’s freedom. I studied for the citizenship test and learned about the laws that protect freedom. Freedom of religion. Freedom of assembly. Freedom to speak, like I’m doing right now.  I could not do that in Russia. You say the wrong thing in Russia and you could go to prison for the rest of your life.

Message to the President: I just want to wish him luck. It's a challenging situation right now. A lot of people have different opinions. But if he’s going to be with us for four years, then let him do the best he can. People chose him, so I wish him luck. I don’t want to say anything bad. But maybe he can support the arts a little more.

Darshan Singh

Darshan Singh

Country of Origin: India

I have been here 17 years. I came here originally because I like the country. Here in this country, there is law and order. You don’t need to pay a bribe. You want to get something done, it’s clear what the rules are. And when it’s your turn for something, it’s your turn, you do not have to bribe someone to get ahead in line. Like the citizen process – it was clear, no bribes, no unwritten rules. I like that very much because it’s fair. That is what liberty is to me. You can assemble and speak what you want. You can even sue the government if you have to, and when you do, you get a fair trial.

Message to the President: We have to respect the President because he is who the people voted for. That is where the respect comes from, the people chose you.

Paulina Larson

Paulina Larson

Country of Origin: Mexico

I came to the U.S. 20 years ago for a better life. My family left Mexico because of the economic circumstances. I was eight years old then, and I felt like I became an American on the first day. America has always felt like home for me. But my siblings were teenagers when they came here. They had a culture shock. They didn’t identify with the culture here. Eventually, they went back, but they didn’t identify with the culture in Mexico either. Now, they live here, but I think it’s been harder for them because they were sort of caught between the two.

This day is very surreal. My American Dream is just starting, even though it started 20 years ago. My American Dream, when I was undocumented, was just to make sure my family and I were safe and that we could live comfortably. Now, my American Dream is to pay it forward to other people who were like me.

I have a responsibility, especially with the political climate, to stand up for what America means and what it means to be an American. So when I saw this election, I knew that I stand for something, that I am everything Trump is trying to stop, so I felt like I needed to become a citizen. I encouraged everyone around me who was eligible to become a citizen for that reason. Before this election, we thought it was ok not to stand up, to let other people make decisions for us because maybe we didn’t belong. But we do belong, and because we belong, we have a responsibility to this country.

Message to the President: Everything he is resisting is me. And if he looks at me, everything I’ve been able to accomplish is pretty amazing, and there’s a lot more people like me who want that chance.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

Country of Origin: Canada

I came here 30 years ago, mostly for the weather. I was looking for ranch work, and I liked the sunshine. Today, I raise horses for polo. I decided to become a citizen for my children, but I think the current political climate had something to do with the timing. I would’ve voted for Trump. I like him, but I wanted to make sure he likes me, so I wanted to settle my immigration status because I can understand the concern about someone being dodgy. I’m an American. I’ve lived more of my life here than anywhere else. It feels like I’m in a foreign country whenever I go visit my mom and dad in Canada. This is my home. So I wanted to make my status solid.

I always get chills when I hear the National Anthem. We play it every Sunday at the polo match – and it just gives me the chills. It’s a beautiful song. The American Dream is the freedom to do as you please, to travel. It’s the freedom to tell the next guy whatever the hell you think, and not worry about it.

Message to the President: Keep up the good work. Just do what you think you have to do. Do what the people around you tell you to do. There’s a lot more guys than just the President. He is not making this up on his own, I’m sure.

Elyvanie Mukangoga

Elyvanie Mukangoga

Country of Origin: Rwanda

I came here in 1989. I thought I would go back someday, but after the genocide in 1994, I knew I could not go back. That’s when I realized that America would be my home.

My American Dream is my ministry. I help women and children become the best they can be in life, and I believe that living in America it’s possible for that dream to come true. Today is special because I feel like I am a complete American, and there’s no limit to what I can do now.

Message to the President: I would like him to hear the stories of the immigrants – how they are not being respected, not being welcomed. I want to give him the message that it’s good to let the immigrants come here and make homes. Because if they can have a home, they can have a dream. But when he sends people from their homes, it’s like killing their dreams.