What does the American Dream mean today? That was the topic at the first American Dream Reconsidered Conference, held at Roosevelt University. The conference was a week long event, that featured panels and discussions on Immigration, education, globalization, and other issues concerning the American Dream. I was only able to attend the conference for one day and participated in Service Day on Thursday.
On Wednesday I attended two panel discussions, the first was: Immigration, Citizenship and the American Dream. Which was led by Lawerence Benito, CEO of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and the panelist included were all Roosevelt Faculty who have immigrated to the United States. The panelist were asked to describe their journey to the United States, why they decided to come, and what does the American Dream mean to them? It was a very informative discussion that gave a lot of insight of what immigrants have to endure en route into the country, and actually being integrated into the United States as a citizen and person.
All the panelist gave great insight on the journey to getting to the U.S. and what it took to get them where they are today, but there was one story that one of the panelist told that really stuck with me after leaving the conference that day.
Bedrija Nicocevic, Assistant Professor of Clinical Sciences at Roosevelt University, and originally from Bosnia told us her story and journey, and it was moving to say the least. Bedrija, starts off her story by telling us ” On April 20th, 1992 we packed all our belongings into two suitcases. And we went to Croatia, in what was suppose to be a two week vacation, we ended up staying in Croatia for eight years.” She went on to explain how her mother’s role changed from going to house wife to cleaning lady first starting off in banks and them moving on to working for pharmacies. It’s an important fact to mention that her mother had received a job as a cleaning lady for a pharmacy, where Bedrija was able to go and help out and assist the Pharmacist. Because of her time working at the pharmacy with her mother, it got her very interested in the field, and is now a professional in that industry.
Bedrija goes on to explain how she got to the United States. In 1995, Bosnia basically became a divided country and Bedriji’s parents didn’t feel comfortable going back. Bedriji and her family had refugee Visa’s and they were starting to send refugees back. Her choices were either go back to Bosnia and live wherever you want, or go to the States or Australia and apply for a visa. Her family decided to come to the U.S because her Aunt was already here. Her aunt worked with an Organization called the International Organization For Migration , which helped her family with all the paperwork and paid for their families plane ticket to the states. Bedriji and her family didn’t make it to the United States until June 5th, 2000.
She goes on to explain that some of the things she had to deal with in starting a new life in the states. One thing she probably never imagined herself doing was being a full time translator for her parents once they she arrived to the states. Bedrija remembers being on the phone all the time, and people asking for her mother’s personal information. She never told them that it wasn’t her mother on the phone, because her mother didn’t speak english and the task at hand would take at least double the time to complete. She would deliver the information that was needed and act as though she was her mother. Bedrija had to be the facilitator for her parents, if there transition to the United States was going to be smooth, or at least as smooth as immigrating to a new country could be. Bedrija goes on to explain the events in her life that led her to where she is today, and how all of them connected. Everything in Bedrija’s journey was connected to what she is doing today, if her mother never became a cleaning lady at a pharmacy she wouldn’t have been on this panel telling her story.
There was a reason I picked this story to tell rather than one of the other 5 panelist that spoke. When it comes to immigration in this country, I think that those who want stricter immigration laws don’t really understand why people decide to leave their HOME, to start COMPLETELY over in a foreign country. In most cases it’s a matter of life or death in deciding to leave your home country and come to the United States. If it’s not a life or death situation, it’s the access of getting the basic resources you need to survive: food, water, and shelter. Most immigrants are not coming to America to have fun or just live an easy life, because for a lot of people its neither fun or easy. It’s so they can maybe walk down the block and get some clean water, or be able to get a job which may not be up to everyone standards but provides financial support to gather basic needs for their family.
So if we could all take a look at it from a different perspectives other than our own, I think we could close the gap on the disagreements we have in this country on immigration. Then maybe, just maybe, we can come to solutions that will create change in attitudes.
To view Bedrija’s full story you can go HERE