Finding the American Dream

Writing Wrongs Author Jaylen Pearson

Jaylen Pearson. Photo by Max Gondolfo.

Writing Wrongs is a community journalism project in which college students explore various social issues. Last year’s issue, “Untold, Unseen, Unheard: Perspectives on Immigration,” contains interviews with immigrants detailing their lives and goals for the future. This is a summary of a piece Jaylen Pearson of Cabrini University originally wrote for the book.

Chasing a Dream

Luis Beltrán was born and raised in Cali, Colombia, and lived there for 35 years. He worked several different jobs to support his family, but his main job was construction. He didn’t feel that this was enough to provide for his family, so he moved to America.

Luis only knew about the U.S. from snippets he heard from others in Colombia. They promised a place were he and family could thrive, so he saved money, applied for a tourist visa, and arrived in the U.S. Although he felt the country was everything he had been told it was, he was weighed down by the financial burden of the trip. He stayed in America for only a year, and when he returned, he struggled to find a job.

A Trip with the Family

Despite this, Luis managed to send his daughter, Paula, her brother, and their mother to America in December 1999. Paula was 6 when she arrived in America and had high expectations due to her aunt telling her stories. But America did not live up to her expectations. She had more freedom in Colombia since in America she would just sit in the house. She became lonely and bored. The cold weather was also a shock. Paula returned to Colombia a few months later but returned to America against her wishes.

Hardships & Redemption
Writing Wrongs Luis Beltrán Paula Beltrán

Paula interpreting for her father, Luis. Photo by Max Gondolfo.

Paula and her brother reunited with their mother and Luis, and the family toured the east coast, from New York to D.C. But there were still problems. Luis had to work night shifts and thus had to leave his children alone at night. The language barrier was also difficult to overcome. Paula would often get in trouble at school since she did not know what the teacher was saying. They also had trouble getting health insurance since they were undocumented. Paula had some access due to being a child, but it was not the same for Luis. Paula also couldn’t get federal financial aid for college, and attended community college first.

Even after all of the hardships, Luis and Paula remain happy to have come to America. They’ve overcome their troubles and feel grateful to have lived in the U.S. Luis wants to give back to the country and wishes the immigration process was more open so that could happen.

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If you would like to be a student writer, print designer, photographer, videographer, social media manager, or program advisor for the 2018 issue of Writing Wrongs, click below for more information.

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To hear more stories like Luis’, buy the full 2017 issue of Writing Wrongs here.

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