Students share immigration struggles, cultural adjustments

URI students share their immigration stories. Photo Courtesy of: Giulianna Sanchero-Gomez and Chadianny Rivera Hernandez

The topic of immigration has increasingly become a divisive topic in the United States as immigration is protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, developed by the United Nations. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 13, “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

Immigration is still heavily regulated, especially in the United States. However, immigration policy has begun to see a shift under the Biden Administration.

The Biden Administration was considering the end of Title 42, which allows border control to rapidly expel migrants, according to the El Paso Times. 

According to the New York Times, Biden has “opened a back door” to allow a significant increase in the amount of immigrants allowed into the United States.

While immigration policy and regulations are heavily discussed, the experience of immigrants in the United States seems to be brushed under the rug. 

The University of Rhode Island’s Spanish department discussed the topic of the experience of the immigrant in the United States heavily. 

“It is important that students study Latinx communities in the United States and learn about their struggles as they integrate themselves into American society without losing their own identity,” said Spanish Professor Judy de Olviera. 

Second-year cell and molecular biology major, Giulianna Sanchero-Gomez, moved to Warwick, Rhode Island in May 2018.

Born in Paraguay, Sanchero-Gomez moved to Warwick with her mom in her sophomore year of high school. 

In Paraguay, she attended a bilingual school where she learned most of her English. Sanchero-Gomez said that compared to her school in Paraguay, she felt that school in the States felt less socially intertwined. 

“People were just very different,” Sanchero-Gomez said. “[In Paraguay] my school was a private school, so it’s definitely smaller. There were only like 60 kids in my graduation class. So we all knew each other. We were really close to each other.” 

Sanchero-Gomez joined the soccer team when she moved to the United States and made her friends that way. However, she felt it was hard to relate to people and had feelings of isolation while her whole family, besides her mom, still lives in Paraguay. 

At URI, Sanchero-Gomez said that diversity or representation feels like it is lacking. She reported that in clubs or spaces made for Latinx students, other students didn’t know where Paraguay was. 

Sanchero-Gomez also pointed out that in the Memorial Union Atriums where the flags are hanging, there is no Paraguayan flag. 

“I feel like at the University they could use more clubs or even activities or events,” Sanchero-Gomez said. “I’m not only supporting immigrant students but also helping other people and other students learn more about it and learn more about other countries.”

Second-year psychology major, Chadianny Rivera Hernandez, moved to Providence when she was 13 years old with her mom, aunt and two cousins. 

Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, Rivera Hernandez knew only a small number of English upon arriving in the United States. 

“At the beginning, I was really fearful because I identify as a Latina, or you know, a woman Latina, because I will feel like people will look at me differently,” Rivera Hernandez said.

However, she said a lot of her classmates spoke Spanish which helped her feel more welcomed into the classroom. 

“They [the teachers] let me use Google Translate to, you know, translate the homework and do presentations, sometimes in Spanish,” Rivera Hernandez said. 

She said that while the grander URI population is not diverse, she has been able to find clubs or organizations such as the Latin American Student Association (LASA) or P.I.N.K Women to help her feel more involved with campus life. 

“Now, coming to URI, as you know, there’s not much diversity here,” Rivera Hernandez said. “But I have found people from my community, people who I really connect with. I don’t feel alone anymore. I feel like I belong to a community that’s really supportive.”According to de Oliveira, learning about the experience of immigrants allows students to enter into the lives of immigrants, be in solidarity with them, learn from their struggles and difficulties, be compassionate and sensitive to their needs, and most importantly, embrace their culture and language by showing respect and dignity for every human person.