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Immigration

Kayleigh Donahue explains the differences between the U.S. and Europe.

American-born TikTok user Kayleigh Donahue is going viral on the platform because of her unflinching take on why it was a mistake for her to move back to the U.S. after spending 4 years in Ireland.

She now lives in the Boston area.

Kayleigh moved back to the U.S. from Ireland to make more money, but that didn’t go as planned. Even though she got paid more, the cost of living was so much higher that she saved less money than she did in Ireland. She also missed the generous number of vacation days she got in Europe as compared to America.


@kayshaynee

popping off always #americanabroad #usavseurope #movingabroad #livingabroad #europevsamerica #fyp

“Basically, I really got sucked into the American Dream way of living when I was abroad, which is funny because I loved living abroad,” Kayleigh said. “But you know, making more money, that’s enticing. Good job, that’s enticing. It’s not true. It used to be. It definitely used to be. You could come here and make a ton of money, make a great life for yourself. But the younger generation today, in this country — screwed. It’s literally all a lie that is sold to you. It’s such a struggle, and the older generation doesn’t seem to see how much of a struggle it is for the younger generation here.”

In the end, who wants to work harder for a lower quality of life?

“Needless to say, I will most likely be moving back to Europe where 20-plus days of paid vacation a year is literally the law, and I will make less money, but somehow, you know, the cost of living is lower there and I can save more,” Kayleigh concluded the video.


This article originally appeared on 1.17.24

Photo collage created from Pixabay

Some different perspectives on the American experience.

Some 300 million people live in the United States. And over 40 million of them are immigrants.

Now, some people might have you believe that too many immigrants might cause us to lose our identity as Americans or that we ought to be fighting and clinging to "the way things were."

But if you look around, you'll see that more than 1 in 10 Americans were born somewhere else — meaning they have their own unique set of amazing experiences to share and their own amazing stories about why they're here.


They each have their own ideas about what being an American means to them, too. And they each have their own reasons for celebrating American independence on the Fourth of July.

So if you want to feel proud, excited, and maybe even a teensy bit emotional about being an American, this one's for you.

Meet five immigrants from all over the country (and all over the world!) who are showing their American pride in many, many shades of red, white, and blue this year.

Mexican American experience, traditional, celebration

Traditional food the celebrate the Fourth of July.

Photo by Chad Montano on Unsplash

1. Nayeli Ruvalcaba's Fourth of July is full of traditional Mexican food and mariachi music.

Ruvalcaba, who was born in Mexico but moved to Chicago when she was 4, spent her early childhood in a mostly caucasian neighborhood called Lakeview. There, she says the Fourth of July was pretty much what you'd expect.

"Everyone would be making ribs and burgers and mac and cheese. And my dad would be drinking Budweisers and Coors Light," she said with a laugh.

Nayeli with her parents.

But when she was 16, she moved to a more diverse area of the city filled with families from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Poland.

There, she says, their holidays are much more vibrant. Neighbors gather in the alleys and share their customs and cultures with one another. They sing along with music (her boyfriend, who is in a mariachi band, often gets the party going). They play games. And then there's the food: Nayeli says she loves to chow down on delicious Fourth of July dishes like arrachera (a Mexican skirt steak), polish sausage, guacamole, and, of course, burgers.

"I know it's an American holiday," she says. "Buteveryone has their own culture. You just mix it in with what everyoneelse does."

Nayeli and her boyfriend in full mariachi get-up!

watermelon, English tea, mishmash of culture

Celebrating with a U.K. twist on the Fourth of July.

Photo by Caju Gomes on Unsplash

2. Johanna Dodd and her family celebrate their Fourth of July the "old fashioned way" but with a small U.K.-based twist.

A one-year work contract for her husband brought the Dodds to Connecticut from the U.K. years ago. 12 years later, they're still here.

The Dodds!

On their Fourth of July, she says, "We tend to do what everyone else in town does. We'll head to the fireworks display with our cooler packed full of food, and, occasionally, we'll sneak in some alcohol."

Sounds pretty American to me!

Johanna's young daughter watches the fireworks.

"The kids run around, there's lots of glow sticks, lots of football (both kinds) being played, lots of fun stuff happening. As it gets darker, there's the national anthem, and then out come the fireworks."

But there is one slightly British twist to the Dodds' holiday: "We don't really do the tailgating thing. We bring what we would call 'an English tea.' There's watermelon, yogurts, cheese sandwiches. Kind of a mishmash of both cultures."

grilling, fish, Liberia, American experience

Bringing home country traditions to the American experience.

Photo by Clint Bustrillos on Unsplash

3. Martin Matthews says he never misses a Fourth of July parade and for a powerful reason.

Matthews was 8 years old when he first came to America to escape a civil war in his home country of Liberia. One of his first memories? A huge Fourth of July parade in New Jersey.

"I had never seen anything like that. The flags, the drums, everything. I remember watching in awe."

Martin with his wife.

He returned to Africa later on but came back to live in America again when fighting broke out in his home country. And when he returned, that big parade stuck in his memory.

"I always loved that about America. It was a place I could be safe. A place I could enjoy freedom," he said. "To celebrate the independence of the United States holds a deep place in my heart."

These days, Martin is big on having barbecues with friends to celebrate Independence Day. There are a lot of burgers and hot dogs, but he'll sometimes mix in traditional African dishes, too, like African-style kabobs, to introduce his friends to his heritage.

"It's a big thing in Africa for people to put fish on the grill, like the whole fish," he added. "You put the whole thing on there. It was the first time some of my American friends had ever tried fish on the grill that wasn't salmon."

But his favorite thing about the holiday is still the parades. "We get there early and wave our American flags. Every year I always wear some kind of American shirt. We sit there and watch everything. It's my way of saying thanks to my adopted country."

cricket, India, celebrating holiday, University of Michigan

Changing the rules to make it work.

Photo by Alfred Kenneally on Unsplash

4. Jay Pockyarath mixes cricket with an American-style barbecue on Independence Day.

"Ever since I was in eighth grade, all I wanted to do was come to the United States," he told Upworthy. After finishing college in India, he finally got the chance when studying nuclear medicine at the University of Michigan. From there, he married an American woman and started a family.

"The thing that works [in America] is that it's a meritocracy," Pockyarath said. "July Fourth is a celebration of that, in my mind. Of independence. Of the freedom to succeed."

Jay, who was born in India, proudly flies an American flag outside his home for July Fourth.

Pockyarath has lived in the United States for over 40 years, so it's no surprise that his holiday celebration looks pretty familiar: steak, hamburgers, and hot dogs on the grill. To him, what's really important is spending time with family.

"Usually we make up games," he laughed. "We play cricket — not the way it's supposed to be played, but with a tennis ball. We make up our own rules."

American flag, Fourth of July, friends and family, decorating

Embracing the traditions and bringing your own flare to it.

Photo by Gene Gallin on Unsplash

5. Natalia Paruz is originally from Israel, and she decorates everything in red, white, and blue.

Natalia is now a musician in New York City.

"First I came here with my parents [about 20 years ago] for a year. At the end of the year, they went back to Israel, and I wanted to stay here," she told Upworthy.

Now she works as a musician in New York City. And she absolutely, positively loves the Fourth of July.

"It's a really fun day. It's a day where you can put politics aside. It's a day for celebrating the joy of this country."

Natalia and her husband host friends every year for a big meal. "I love decorating the house for the holiday with the flags. There's always a big flag hanging from the flagpole. In the back, that's where I really go all out. Every tree gets some kind of decoration!"

"We make hot dogs, hamburgers — how can you not?" she said. "We also make tahini, which is a traditional Israeli food. It's made of sesame seeds and it becomes a paste and you spread it on pita bread. Our friends here love it."

Natalia says an overabundance of food "as if you're going to entertain a bunch of soldiers" is a nod to her Israeli roots.

This year, she's going out with friends to watch fireworks. "I wear a T-shirt that has an American flag on it and a bracelet with the colors of the flag. If you're celebrating, you might as well go to the maximum."

It turns out, celebrating America means different things to different people. And that's kind of the point.

In my mind, the only thing better than a Fourth of July party filled with burgers, steaks, beer, and fireworks is a Fourth of July party filled with all of those things plus Mexican food and African music and "English tea" and tahini and mariachi bands and more.

So whether we choose to embrace the "American way" of celebrating Independence Day (red meat and fireworks) or to use it as a chance to celebrate the unique melting pot of culture that is our country today or something in between, I think we can all agree that the America we have now is already pretty great.

This article originally appeared on 07.01.16

Democracy

12 real stories that show why ruthless immigration laws are the wrong move.

Immigration policies that rip families apart are a travesty.


If there's ever been a particularly bad time to be an undocumented immigrant, it's right now.

President Donald Trump, who launched himself into the 2016 presidential race with his support for a multibillion-dollar border wall, has been cracking down on immigration as promised. In addition to tightening border security, he's pledged to remove 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants "immediately." And he appears to be keeping his word.

Deportation is nothing new, but Trump's plans are unprecedented. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.


It's a scary climate we're facing, but unfortunately, it's not just Trump and it's not just America. All over the world, people are more concerned with their countries' borders than seemingly ever before.Nations all over Europe, for example, are tightening up immigration rules and/or ramping up deportations themselves.

Amidst all the noise and rhetoric — every "radical Islamic terrorist" attack that gets waved about by politicians with something that eerily resembles pride, every horrific crime committed by white Americans that's met with deafening silence, every press conference faux pas — there are real people and real families being ripped apart in the name of patriotism.

Their stories are terrifying and heart-wrenching, but they're massively important.

1. A DREAMer gave a powerful speech about deportation. Moments later, she was arrested.

Daniela Vargas, who has lived in the U.S. since she was 7 years old, spoke at a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi, about the importance of the DREAM Act, which aims to help immigrant children who have lived in the U.S. for more than five years and graduated high school receive permanent legal status.

After the event, Vargas and a friend were pulled over and arrested by immigration agents.

2. A Sri Lankan student studying in North Wales was saved from deportation only by a last ditch effort hours before her flight.

Shiromini Satkunarajah, an electrical engineering student at Bangor University, was nearly sent back to Sri Lanka earlier this year. Despite having lived in the U.K. since she was 12 and being only three months shy of graduation, Satkunarajah was only allowed to stay after receiving an outpouring of community support.

3. A woman living in Great Britain was sent back to Singapore without being allowed to say goodbye to her husband and two children.

Irene Clennell had lived in the U.K. since 1988 but was abruptly sent back to Singapore after having her indefinite leave to remain revoked. Clennell is married and has two children with her husband but was not afforded the chance to see them one last time.

4. A mom living in Phoenix was sent back to Mexico. Her children would later face Trump as he addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos' children were reportedly in attendance as Trump addressed Congress. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/AFP/Getty Images.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos was sent back to Mexico in January this year for having a criminal record. Her crime? Working under the table to provide for her young children.

5. A beloved restaurant manager in a deep-red town in Illinois was arrested, and now the community is reeling.

Most of the people in West Frankfort, Illinois, voted for Trump. They never thought anything would happen to Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco, the friendly restaurant manager who seemed have done at least one kind deed for everyone in the community. Now, he's been detained by ICE and is currently waiting to find out if he'll be sent back to Mexico.

6. A Kuwaiti man and father of two living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the other hand, was miraculously spared from deportation because it would cause his family too much hardship.

Yousef Ajin has lived in the United States for 18 years with his wife, with whom he has four children. He reportedly met with immigration officers frequently, but on Jan. 30, 2017, he was suddenly detained.

In February, a judge granted a deportation waiver in order to spare Ajin's family from hardship. Many other immigrants aren't so lucky.

7. One man was caught trying to cross the border and returned to Tijuana. He appears to have jumped to his death shortly after.

The man, Guadalupe Olivas Valencia, had reportedly worked in the U.S. before to provide for his family back home before being deported multiple times. Caught trying to enter the country once again, he seemingly decided jumping from a bridge was his only option.

8. A single mother in California was sent back to Mexico, leaving her two young children in peril.

Photo by Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images.

On Feb. 7, María Robles-Rodríguez was nabbed by U.S. Border Patrol and sent back to Mexico, leaving her twin 18-year-old daughters to fend for themselves.

9. Gay men being deported from Britain to Afghanistan are being told to pretend they're straight.

The British government's advice to gay men being sent home to Afghanistan, where they can be freely persecuted for their sexual orientation? Just don't act gay and everything will be fine!

Seriously.

10. Jose Escobar was detained after a routine meeting with immigration officers. He's a husband and father of three.

Escobar, who has lived in the United States for 16 years, had a deportation scare a few years back but was told he'd be safe if he checked in with immigration agents every year. Only this year, an agent reportedly told his wife, "We're just doing what President Trump wants us to do with the new rules."

Escobar will likely soon be deported.

11. A Mexican man living in Idaho was deported. His wife and the mother of his children could be next.

Tomas Copado ran his own auto body shop in Idaho Falls until he was sent back to Mexico earlier this year. His wife, for the sake of their children, recently had her own deportation deferred.

For now.

12. Some undocumented immigrants may be deported to Mexico even if they're not from there.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

According to several reports, the Department of Homeland Security plans to send anyone who crosses illegally over the southern border of the U.S. back to Mexico, even though they may be citizens of another country.

Needless to say, this is horrendous and possibly in violation of international law.

Statue of LibertyPhoto by Guzmán Barquín on Unsplash

Every modern nation needs smart, empathetic paths to citizenship. Any immigration policy that tramples on human rights and rips families apart is a travesty.

It's time to bust the narrative that foreigners primarily come to our country — or any country — to do harm. They come mostly to find opportunity, to escape persecution, or to be with family.

If we can't come to see them as human beings rather than inanimate outsiders, finding the money to pay for a giant wall will be the very least of our problems.


This article originally appeared on 03.02.17

Democracy

Cuban immigrant’s reaction to getting his first American paycheck has gone viral

Before coming to the U.S. last year, Diaz made $12 a month as a computer science teacher in Cuba.

The Cuban and American flags.

An Instagram post featuring Yoel Diaz, a recent Cuban immigrant, is going viral because it shows a powerful example of something many of us in America take for granted. The freedom to earn a paycheck for a day of honest labor.

In the video, Diaz is ecstatic after he opens his first paycheck after getting a job as a seasonal worker for UPS. CBS reports that before coming to the U.S. last year, Diaz made $12 a month as a computer science teacher in Cuba.

"This is my first hourly paycheck that I feel every hour counted," he told CBS News. "That every hour of work has importance in my life and that I know I can work hard for something. I can't compare that emotion with anything. Because I never had that in my country."

The new job was a big change from life in Cuba where he had trouble filling his refrigerator. He told CBS News that sometimes he only had two items: "Water, water, water, five, ten eggs, water."


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“First paycheck in AMERICA!!! This is the American dream!!!” his wife Marissa Diaz of Pheonix, Arizona captioned the post. “There are no words to describe how proud I am of your courage to enter a country and a culture that is not yours. This content is a mini documentary not only for us but dedicated to the many immigrants who sacrifice everything to film what we just filmed. A little bit at a time, with hard work and dedication anything is possible in this country.

Diaz's video comes at a time when Cuba is facing some of its most difficult economic hardships since Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution. Widespread food and medicine shortages have led to protests in the streets, a rarity in the authoritarian country.

Diaz moved to America from Cuba to be with his wife whom he met as a child living in the communist country. After moving to the U.S., she shared stories of what life was like outside of Cuba. After the couple got together, Diaz had a choice: to stay in Cuba or go to the U.S. for greater opportunity.

"We want a future, we want a family... wherever you go I go,” he said. “This time, I finally can dream—I can help my family and this is the first step in my new life where I can be whoever I want now,” he said according to The New York Post.

On election day, Diaz shared why Americans should be grateful to have the ability to choose their leaders because where he is from, there is only one party. His perspective is important at a time when many Americans feel the country has been divided by political tribalism.

"Sometimes I see people fight with each other and they don't know the blessing they have. Just that you can think differently is a positive," he said in the video. "To Americans: Think about what you have. You Should stop fighting because it's something so beautiful. To think differently."

Diaz’s appreciation of his life in America is a great lesson to all of us who may take our unique freedoms for granted. America may not be a perfect place, but it’s still a country where people are free to pursue their dreams. Diaz’s story is also a wonderful reminder of the power America has to transform lives through immigration and that it should embrace that opportunity and give the gift to as many people as possible.