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The Journey of Immigrants in a New Country and a New Community

-Editorial, story developed for the “Stop the Hate” fellowship in the State of California. 

Immigrants arriving in the United States often face rejection, hatred, and are seen as threats. This unwarranted hostility can make their journey even more challenging. However, it is imperative that we address this issue and work towards creating a more inclusive society.

Take the story of Moises Serrato, one of the seventeen migrants who arrived in Calexico, California, seeking refuge. Serrato, hailing from Danli, Honduras, was forced to flee his home due to the pervasive gang violence. His goal is to reunite with his wife and children, who are currently residing in Louisiana.

“I traveled through Guatemala on a bus and then crossed Mexico. I came here to escape the violence and gang activity by the Maras,” Serrato shared. “My dream is to achieve success with my family and, God willing, have everything we need.”

Another migrant, Carlos, 24, made the journey from Jalisco, Mexico, to be with his wife and son in Texas. He left his home country to escape the clutches of the mafia.

The group that arrived that day comprised individuals from various regions, including Latin America, Turkey, Pakistan, Africa, and other countries. They congregated at a local independent shuttle business that would transport them to the San Diego International Airport, two hours away from Calexico.

Every day, migrants continue to arrive in this border city, which declared a state of local emergency to address the situation. Thankfully, community organizations stepped up to help these individuals reach their destinations and protect their human rights.

In December 2022, the United States Department of Homeland Security began releasing a significant number of immigrants seeking asylum into Calexico through the Calexico West Port of Entry. The local shelter, already at capacity, could no longer accommodate the influx of arrivals.

Responding to reports of a large group of immigrants gathering at a park and local shelters reaching maximum capacity, the city, in collaboration with the Imperial County Department of Social Services, provided temporary housing and arranged transportation to their final destinations.

Without this assistance, many, including women and children, would have been left to sleep on city sidewalks without shelter, as highlighted by Calexico City Manager Esperanza Colio. It is worth noting that once Title 42 is lifted, over 2,000 people in shelters in Mexicali are ready to cross the border.

Following these events, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors also declared a state of local emergency, with the Brawley City Council showing support for Calexico’s state of emergency. Despite the county’s financial and personnel limitations, Imperial County Supervisor District 1 Jesus Eduardo Escobar stressed the importance of treating these individuals humanely.

The arrival of migrants in Calexico has posed additional challenges for a city already facing economic difficulties. Calexico has been struggling to recover from a substantial budget deficit that nearly bankrupted the city in 2015. The presence of these migrants will likely strain city resources, including public safety.

But, like in all case and stories, there is also a dark side or negative aspect that we must address, and while some residents expressed concerns about the city’s focus on sheltering migrants, it is crucial to recognize that the challenges faced by newcomers are not confined to their experiences alone. The biases and preconceived notions held by some individuals contribute to the rejection and mistreatment of immigrants. This issue demands our attention and a concerted effort to change the narrative.

Pedro’s story sheds light on the deeper aspects of the immigrant experience. He embarked on a journey in pursuit of the American Dream, leaving behind a life of struggle and violence in his home country. He sought a better life for himself and his family, hoping to find peace and stability in the United States.

However, upon arriving, Pedro’s children faced numerous challenges at their new school, primarily due to the language barrier. Despite being raised in Imperial County, many school personnel claimed to be unable to speak English when assisting Pedro’s children, who felt rejected and alienated in their new environment.

The Imperial Valley, home to a predominantly Mexican-American population, often experiences discrimination and divides along socio-economic lines. With a small middle class and a significant low-income population, opportunities for upward mobility are limited, fostering an atmosphere of competition and exclusion.

To address these issues, we must harness the positive power of journalism and unite as a community. It is essential to create opportunities for all, rather than perpetuating a system driven by nepotism and favoritism. By acknowledging our shared immigrant heritage and embracing diversity, we can build a stronger America.

The challenges faced by immigrants in a new country extend far beyond their initial arrival. Once settled in their new communities, they often encounter additional barriers and prejudices that hinder their integration. Discrimination and stereotypes perpetuate a cycle of exclusion, making it difficult for immigrants to secure stable employment, access quality education, and fully participate in community life.

To combat this, it is crucial for society as a whole to address these prejudices head-on and actively work towards fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment. Local government agencies, educational institutions, and community organizations play a vital role in promoting cultural understanding and dismantling barriers that hinder the progress of immigrants. By providing language classes, cultural exchange programs, and support services tailored to the specific needs of immigrants, we can empower them to thrive and contribute to their new communities.

Furthermore, creating opportunities for meaningful social interactions and connections is key to overcoming prejudices and stereotypes. Encouraging dialogue, hosting community events that celebrate diversity, and fostering intercultural exchanges can bridge the gap between immigrants and long-time residents. When we see individuals as unique human beings with diverse stories and backgrounds, rather than simply as “foreigners” or “outsiders,” we can build stronger bonds of empathy, compassion, and solidarity. By embracing the contributions and perspectives of immigrants, we enrich our society and create a more vibrant and inclusive future for all.

There is much work to be done. Numerous individuals have come forward, sharing their experiences of mistreatment and abuse in local institutions and workplaces. The path to change requires collective effort, including the support of organizations like the Imperial Valley Equity and Justice Coalition, which has provided crucial assistance and support to arriving migrants.

Through donations and community solidarity, we can alleviate the challenges faced by immigrants. The time has come to foster empathy, understanding, and respect for all individuals, regardless of their immigration status. Together, we can forge a path towards a more inclusive and compassionate society.

Let us remember that America’s strength lies in its diversity, and by embracing newcomers, we enrich our nation’s tapestry. It is only through unity and collaboration that we can create a brighter and more equitable future for all.

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