From a Dictatorship to the Home of the Brave

When I first left Cuba, I was just fifteen years old.

I had no idea about the opportunities that had suddenly opened up to me. Instead, I was sure it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. My parents told me we were visiting Czechoslovakia. It was to be a two-week trip to celebrate my becoming a quinceañera. I boarded that plane with no fear. I wasn’t at risk of saying something that could endanger myself and my family simply because I didn’t know the truth. The truth: this wasn’t a family vacation, but instead an escape from the authoritarian Castro regime. We arrived in Montreal, Canada and the plane to Czechoslovakia flew on without us. It felt like a terrible lie. But, of course, my parents were just trying to protect me. The family trip was just a cover story.

At the time, I didn’t appreciate the way my parents had protected me. I didn’t understand the risks they took or the gift they gave me. Instead, I mourned the loss of my language, my culture, and my home. I was determined to get back to those things I lost, no matter what my parents said.

But first, I had other big challenges ahead. I had to learn a new language. I had to adapt to a new culture. I had to obtain an immigration status. I found the courage and forged my own path that led me to physical therapy school, to my husband, Jeff, and to becoming a Canadian citizen, one step at a time. But, I never lost that determination to regain my roots – and that’s what eventually led me to the United States.

Jeff and I took several vacations to Florida. There I found what I had lost so many years before: the Cuban culture. Alive, vibrant, and free from the bureaucratic Castro regime. So, together with Jeff, I left behind everything I knew, again. This time it was my decision and I wasn’t running away from anything; I was running towards my new life and more opportunities. I was coming to America with a work visa.

In Florida, I continued my physical therapy work. I made new friends. I bought my first house. I adopted my first dog. Finally, I was truly free to be myself. I could love Cuba while still being a proud and patriotic immigrant, now an American. I also found I was ready for a new challenge. I thought back to the immigration attorneys, in Canada and the U.S., who worked so hard to help me realize my dreams. I knew I wanted to make a greater impact, so I applied to law school.

For years, I juggled a full-time job as a physical therapist and part-time law study. There was time for little else. But the hard work paid off: I graduated first in my class, and I became an immigration attorney.

Today, I have a unique view of immigration to the United States. I not only have experienced the immigration journey personally, but I have also gained valuable legal knowledge. I’m now helping employers obtain work visas and green cards to recruit, hire and invest in diverse and unique talent. I’m helping employers fill critical jobs and gain peace of mind. I’m helping build the immigration story of hundreds of amazing people.

Through my work, I’ve found that these immigrants from all across the globe have something in common. Even under the current extreme vetting immigration climate, immigrants see America as a welcoming country. And we’re willing to work hard to contribute to our communities and employers and gain our work visa, green card or U.S. citizenship.

Immigrants are fighters and entrepreneurs. We come here because we put in the effort to better our lot in life. We come here because we have more to give – and we want to give it to this country. We have a deep appreciation for the freedoms granted in the U.S. Constitution and protected by U.S. institutions. I couldn’t be prouder to help employers gain immigrant talent and diversity to make the United States of America a stronger, braver, and more beautiful country.

 

by Giselle Carson