An Immigrant’s Child

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Life as a second-generation immigrant

The story of an immigrant never ends with the immigrant; it continues with their children. Although children of immigrants may not face the same struggles as their parents, they have a different set of challenges to face. Every immigrant has a different story; the same goes for their children.

I asked three other people about their experiences growing up with immigrant parents.

Being a daughter of an immigrant myself, I wanted to explore others’ views, so I asked three people about their experience growing up in the United States with immigrant parent or parents.

Simran is a first-generation American with her mother from Canada and her father from India. She has always lived in the United States but realizes that her family heritage influenced her outlook on life. What her parents experienced outside of the United States affected her values as she got older. Practicing an ethnic religion broadened her worldview and exposed her to different cultural traditions not common in the U.S. Her parents’ immigration status inspired her to be academically driven and aware of the impact she may have on the world.

While it is common for both parents to immigrate to the US from another country, some kids may only have one parent that immigrated. For instance, my mother’s family has been in the United States for three generations, but my father was born in Panama and immigrated as a kid.

Brenda’s mother immigrated from México while her father was born in the US. She has always been proud to learn about her Mexican heritage and her ability to see the world from a different perspective. She believes her mom’s status as an immigrant allows her to connect with Latino and first-generation communities, which has led to significant education and network opportunities. She is also more aware of the politics surrounding immigration, encouraging her to be more active in the politics and social issues surrounding immigration.

Ella’s father was born in Europe, while her mom’s family has lived in the United States for many generations. Growing up, she didn’t realize her dad was different until friends pointed out his accent, asking where he was from. Learning languages was vital to her dad as well as trying new foods. Despite the difficulty of learning a new language, Ella is grateful for the cultural perspective it presented her, as it has strongly impacted her future.

Children of immigrants have a different set of challenges to face.

Growing up, I didn’t realize how my dad’s immigration history impacted my life. Because my dad’s father was in the military, my dad often moved when he was young, including living in Germany for a short time. His exposure to many different cultures allowed me to grow a curiosity for learning languages and exploring cultures other than my own. When my dad began practicing immigration law, I quickly learned the importance of immigration, how it affects my life and how this country runs. For me, immigration is a vital issue, and my dad’s immigration history and work strongly influenced my beliefs.

Every story has different challenges and successes. Many children of immigrants, like Simran and Brenda, feel pressured to make their lives worthy of the sacrifices of their parents. Although this helped them be the best versions of themselves, the expectations could be overwhelming. Despite the pressure of being a child of immigrants, there is much gratitude for immigrant parents. Children of immigrants can see immigrants and their stories while recognizing the hardships that come from immigrating.

Aiyana Armstrong