4 The Country of Hope for Immigrants and Refugees – Liz Tolano
Author: Liz Tolano, Pima Community College
Armando Urguelles-Aleman was born on January 4, 1986, in Habana, Cuba. I met him about two years ago when he and my cousin started a relationship. They are still together, and they had a beautiful baby girl on July 3rd of this year.
Armando lived for two years in Mexico, residing on the Nogales border. On April 20th of this year, he decided to try his luck by arriving at the border and requesting political asylum. U.S. Immigration took him, and he was taken to the detention center where he was quarantined for two weeks and later granted an ICE Form I-220ª. Armando’s story has had a significant impact on my life, not only because he is already part of my family but also because I know the struggle and effort of immigrants wanting to reach and achieve the American dream. Thanks to my mother’s efforts, sacrifices, and struggles in her attempt to immigrate to this country, I am a proud U.S. – Mexican citizen. Therefore, Armando’s story is meaningful to me, and I want to share it with everyone.
QUESTIONS FOR ARMANDO:
What made you decide to leave your family and history behind and immigrate to the United States?
My intention was not to leave who I am, my history, my family behind in Cuba. On the contrary, they were the motive and reason to seek a better life, and I take them with me in my mind and heart wherever I go to remind myself where I came from and what my goals are. I recognized the despair and pain of injustice in my country, which I no longer wanted to witness or endure. My idea was never to leave them, my family, enslaved in that situation, but I had to leave to fulfill my dreams. I will fight for a decent life here in the United States and give my best in gratitude to this country and thus save money and support my family in Cuba, and maybe in the future, if God allows me, I can get them out of Cuba.
If you could change just one thing about your country that would make you stay in it and fulfill your dreams, what would it be?
I would gladly change the Cuban dictators’ rotten minds and stoned hearts because only heartless beings can be as inhumane as them. How can they treat other human beings as they treat us, their people? How can you treat and denigrate another human being like that? The problem is not Cuba; Cuba is beautiful, it is perfect, its people are humble, joyful, and full of love. The problem is the government, and that is what needs to be changed.
Has the process before and after your political asylum been as you expected? Has it been better or worse than you expected?
I did not know exactly what to expect from the process, but I hoped that everything would be better than what is lived in Cuba. Of course, my journey has not been easy because, as we all know, every goal needs effort, and there are numerous obstacles on the way. Being in the United States is a drastic change, very different from my Cuba, even very different from Mexico, where I lived for a few years. However, I am still thankful for this opportunity; it is difficult to survive in the United States, especially refugees. You find both good and evil everywhere you go, but it is all about attitude and effort.
What message would you give to society regarding people like you who seek a better life through asylum in this country or any other country with better opportunities?
I would tell everyone that we are all in the same boat, that we fight the good fight, seek to be happy, see our people happy, and we all try to live in love, peace, and harmony. Moreover, this should bring us together, and we must support each other. I also understand the controversy about “illegal immigrants” because we must do things right and follow and respect the processes and laws. Unfortunately, many do not, and I understand the anger of many people when it comes to that, but I promise we are not all criminals. I did not leave a country where things were unlawful, cruel, and dishonest to come and repeat the same story in a country that is not mine, especially when this country is a light of hope and opportunity to me. We must learn not to take for granted opportunities, but above all, we must learn to be thankful that we have one another in the boat called “life.”
I have experienced Armando’s journey closely since he arrived at the border town of Nogales Son/AZ to the time he requested political asylum in the United States. As I mentioned, my cousin Rosa, Armando’s partner, gave birth to their baby in the summer of this year, and I had the honor of being the first one to meet baby Olivia even before mom & dad. Her birth was a cesarean section, and Armando lived in Miami, Florida, with some of his cousins at that time and could not travel. Armando moved to Arizona and met his baby girl when she was one month old, and the three of them lived with me for three months. During this time, I have witnessed their anguish and desperation because Armando cannot work and provide for his family because he is waiting for his work permit. On December 21st of this year, Armando will travel back to Orlando, Florida, for his immigration hearing, and God willing, his work permit will then be granted.