Refugees seek safe space at East Meck

Story by Haylieh Palma Martinez, Staff Writer

Every year, thousands of people reach the borders of the United States in hopes of being welcomed into the land of the free. Whether they are running away from violence, pursuing a safer home or attempting to provide for their families, the story for immigrants across the nation revolves around one idea: the American Dream. 

The principles of equality, opportunity and liberty sound ideal, but the journey towards fulfilling them is one full of many obstacles, and for many migrants at East Meck, those difficulties are not unique. 

Senior Alfonzo Jimenez migrated to the U.S. in spring 2018 after being surrounded by the political turmoil of a corrupt government in Venezuela. 

“My family decided to come here because of the bad situation in Venezuela,” Jimenez said. We came because the government was so dangerous that you couldn’t leave your house at any time. My mother also came for a few political reasons, in which she worked for the government and she saw things that she did not agree with and they forced her to come here.”

Not only does the American lifestyle require immense adaptations for many migrants, but they face many difficulties on the road to being successful in their academic career. 

“I was going to graduate last year as a senior but I did not graduate because here the subjects are handled very differently than in my country. They are the same subjects but they look different and they have another system that is very different from here,” Jimenez said. 

However, as Jimenez faced the realities of his academic career, he found comfort in the sports offered at East. 

“My first year here I played soccer, I did well in soccer after I started meeting more people,” Jimenez said. “I started to meet everyone who plays baseball and they told me to try out for the team. I tried out… and stayed on the team, played with them and made great friendships with them. I like sports a lot. I am very competitive, I never like to lose.” 

Similar to Jimenez, junior Alexa Rodriguez faced her own academic and social obstacles after she migrated to Charlotte from Costa Rica at the age of 14. 

“Making friends was definitely the hardest thing, but there were some careless teachers who wouldn’t help me at all,” Rodriguez said. 

However, instead of falling victim to the lack of help and her social struggles, Rodriguez decided to take matters into her own hands and search for the proper resources needed to succeed. 

“I decided to challenge myself and only hang out with people who didn’t speak Spanish and be with people who cared about school and would help me,” Rodriguez said. “I decided to join classes and clubs to meet new people and friends.” 

Although some migrants are able to find success in America just as Rodriguez and Jimenez have, the idea of allowing others to enter their country is one that millions of Americans look down upon. 

“The culture here is kind of rude sometimes and my culture is really social and sweet to everyone even if they’re strangers,” Rodriguez said. 

While the topic of immigration weighs down on government officials, many Americans have already reached their own conclusions on the issue, including Rodriguez.

“I do agree with the fact that maybe immigration should be controlled a bit more, but definitely not the way they’re doing it. I don’t really care if they’ve been doing it for years, it’s just cruel,” Rodriguez said.