Blog Archives

Ithacan Immigrant: Yasmin

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This week’s Ithacan Immigrant features Yasmin, an Iranian national who moved to Ithaca to study at Cornell.  She’s majoring in human biology/pre-med and aspires to becoming a surgeon hoping to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps who was a heart surgeon in her home country.  We first met Yasmin when she and her mother came to Catholic Charities seeking assistance in becoming U.S. citizens.

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

I came for my education and to have a better future for myself and my children.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

I got accepted to Cornell and when I came here I realized that it was a very nice city.  I love the natural environment and the people.  As you know it’s a sanctuary city, it’s a safe place, and the political ideologies match mine.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

I would say my first impression was thinking Ithaca was like the movie Twilight because it’s a very natural environment.  I remember going to Taughannock Falls and Buttermilk Falls and thinking that.  When I first got here, everyday I would walk to class from my dorm and I would cross a bridge and take pictures of the water.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

I definitely like hot dogs.  I didn’t use to eat them but when I came here I realized they are a pretty big thing.  I eat them with mustard only.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

Urban Outfitters – in Iran there was a mandatory hijab that you had to wear and our school uniforms had to be a dark navy; it was very conservative.  When I came here people were free to wear whatever they wanted and Urban Outfitters seemed pretty interesting.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

Here you have the freedom to voice your opinions and just seeing how people can voice their political opinions inspires me.   In Iran, people are very scared.  Even if they know the political system is corrupt, they don’t say it because they are scared.  There is a fright over there because they have been oppressed and I don’t see that here.

 

 

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Ithacan Immigrant: Plel

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This week’s Ithacan Immigrant features Plel, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Burma in 2016.  His wife was joined him in the U.S. this past year through the refugee resettlement program we have at Catholic Charities.  We are providing Plel with legal immigration services so he can adjust his status from refugee to legal permanent resident.

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

Because I had family here.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

My mother lived here – we have over 100 relatives in the U.S. and probably 50 of them live in Ithaca.  We have lots of cousins.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

There’s not a lot of people fighting in Ithaca.  There’s a lot of beautiful things here like waterfalls and it’s clean.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

Salad – I like the ones at GreenStar.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

I don’t really like to shop.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

In the U.S. there’s good education and a lot of jobs.  Back home where we lived, we didn’t have a good education, we didn’t have freedom and we got punished by the Burmese government and the Thai police so we couldn’t go anywhere.  Here, everybody is happy.

Ithacan Immigrant: Pedro

~8958845This week’s Ithacan Immigrant features Pedro, a naturalized US citizen who was born and raised in Venezuela.  He originally moved to the US to pursue an internship at TC3 where he met his future wife who was from Ithaca area.  Pedro accessed our citizenship services in 2011 and came back this year to use our family-based immigration services so he could bring his son from Venezuela to the US.

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

I was looking for a better life.  This is a nice country to live in – I feel very comfortable living here.  I like that it’s safe.  The only issue I have is the winter.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

I applied for an internship and got accepted.  When they asked if I wanted to go to Ithaca I said, “why not?”  So, I came here in 2000 to go to TC3 and I met my wife who was studying there.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

I actually forgot about the first time I came to Ithaca.  One day I was in the Johnson Museum at Cornell and I could see the lake.  I realized I knew that lake, I had some memory about it so I asked my mother about it.  I had forgotten I had come to New York in 1981 for a summer camp (in Roscoe, NY).  We came to Cornell for a field trip.  My memory was erased.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

I love Subway – I like their roast beef sub.  Cold.  I’d like to put ketchup on it but they don’t serve ketchup there. 

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop or eat in Ithaca?

I like the Commons.  I really like going to Simeon’s.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

The weather is so different.  Here everything is green – there it’s so hot.  In Venezuela we always have weather that’s over 85 or 90 and for 5-6 months there’s no rain.  It’s also dirty there.  In Ithaca when it is spring I always say everything is a happy green and then as soon as Labor Day passes, it turns to a sad green.

 

Ithacan Immigrant: Angie

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This week’s Ithacan Immigrant features Angie, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic.  After emigrating to the US, Angie lived in Long Island and then eventually moved to upstate New York.  She originally came to ISP for our family based immigration services and more recently for our citizenship services.

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

I came here for vacation but I found someone here so I stayed.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

We came to Ithaca to visit my family and we liked it so we decided to live here. 

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

It was quiet, relaxing, and I was pregnant so I was thinking about it being safe.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

Philly cheese steak – I like the ones at Casa Blanca cause they’re not too greasy.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

Walmart.  It’s not too expensive and you can find everything you need.  Every time I go to buy 3 things I come out with 20.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

A lot of things are different but mainly 3 things – stability, safety, and good economics.  Ithaca and this country gives me what my own country didn’t.  

Ithacan Immigrant: Paul

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We interviewed Paul for this week’s Ithacan Immigrant who emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago to the US with his family when he was a teenager.  He went back to the Islands to live and study but eventually made the US his home.  Paul moved to Ithaca to obtain a degree in ag science and horticulture at Cornell.  A couple of years ago, he came to ISP to get assistance with becoming a US citizen and recently returned to inquire about our family based immigration services. 

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

I first came with my parents but didn’t stay.  I went home and studied my secondary education. 

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

I left Miami and came to NY and then decided to come back to school; it was something I wanted to do for the longest but in the Islands you don’t go to school after you are 25.  But I always knew I should I should go back to school.  I was at Queens Opportunity Center and when my daughter studied for her ACTs, I decided it would be a good thing for us to go back together. We both went to Morrisville and then after I finished, I transferred to Cornell. I fell in love with Ithaca and decided to stick around.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

I liked it because in the Islands we grew up in the country – there were lots of trees and it kind of reminded me of that.  I was scared though to come to school as a non-traditional student.  But it worked out find. 

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

Oh gosh, the only place I eat is Macro Mama’s at the Farmers Market and Taste of Thai.  Otherwise I cook Island foods like beans and rice. 

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

I shop at Green Star or Wegmans – I like the organic, whole foods kind of thing.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

I find lots of similarities but I I have to think about the differences.  I guess the biggest would be the beaches and the weather.  There’s only cold weather here in the winter but in my country the temperature is always warm; it’s usually 95 – 100 degrees.  Back home we have the wet season or the dry season.

Ithacan Immigrant: Leelia

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We interviewed Leelia for this week’s Ithacan Immigrant, who emigrated from Liberia to the US at the age of 16.  In 2012, Leelia and other family members came to ISP to get assistance in applying to become US citizens; all of them were successful in pursuing naturalization.  Five years later, Leelia has returned to Catholic Charities for legal immigration services so she can petition to bring her mother to come to the US as a permanent resident.

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ISP: Why did you come to the US?

My dad came to the US as a student at Cornell and became employed by them.  He then sent for me and my brothers to join him.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

Because my Dad was already here.

 ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

We came in the fall so I thought it was pretty.  But it was cold; I wasn’t expecting that so it was kind of a shock.  My first few months here were fine.  When I started school though I changed my mind because the kids were very mean.  Kids are so mean to immigrants, especially when you can’t speak English.  I felt like a newborn baby learning how to crawl and walk all over because I had to learn how to read and write.  Liberian English and American English are so different.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

Pepperoni pizza.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

TJ Maxx – they have good deals.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

Monrovia is crowded, everyone is on the street, it’s loud, people are selling food, clothes, everything.  Here it is quiet.  No one is on the street being loud and selling whatever they want.  There’s not a lot of cars or traffic in Monrovia but here there’s a lot of traffic.

Ithacan Immigrant: Marie Jose

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This week’s Ithacan Immigrant features Mary Jose, a native of Costa Rica, who moved to the US with her siblings through family reunification.  This fall, she will be leaving the Ithaca area so she can study at Temple University in Philadelphia.  Her aspirations include returning to Costa Rica and opening a non-profit for low income people who are diagnosed with cancer.  Mary Jose came to ISP to get help applying to become a U.S. citizen.  The picture below was taken last week at Tompkins County’s Supreme Court after she received her citizenship certificate. 

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

I came here to study and have a better future so I can open a non-profit back in Costa Rica.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

My father decided to live here and I joined him later.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

It was beautiful.  I came here in the summer and my brother used to take me on bike rides and I remember thinking it was really green.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

Last year was the first American Thanksgiving that I had so I can say that was my favorite American food.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

Ithaca Bakery – I like the chicken noodle soup and their French vanilla coffee.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

The buildings.  I grew up in the city and there were a lot of buildings.  Ithaca has a lot of trees.  The people in Ithaca are friendlier- people always say good morning and hi.  When I first got here, I wondered why people were always saying hi to me.

 

Ithacan Immigrant: Pakala

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We interviewed Pakala, a Thai national, for this week’s Ithacan Immigrant.   Pakala moved to the U.S. with his mother in the 70’s when he was a teenager.  He expressed that he’s been here so long that he feels like he is already a U.S. citizen but finally decided to take the steps to formally become one.

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

My mother had a job with the government with USAID right out of university and the last place she worked was in Laos.  When Laos fell to communism she was placed in the U.S. 

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

My life has taken many twists and turns.  My relatives live here and I needed a haven.  Ithaca became a haven for me.  I ran away from reality and found a haven in Ithaca – as cliché as that sounds.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

The truth?  I was born in a large city and had lived in large cities so I thought it was quaint and at the same time I felt so far removed from everything else I had known.  That drive from Whitney Point to Ithaca, I felt like I was traveling back in time in a time I didn’t know because of the farm land, the farm houses and the old tractors.  But I grew to love it.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

My mother makes a mean meatloaf.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

Buffalo Bookstore.  There’s a sense of community; a sense of everyone knowing everyone else.  I like the interaction of people there.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

I find that Ithacans, as a community, care more about what makes the world whole – they look beyond the front door more.  I find that to be admirable and rare.

 

Ithacan Immigrant: Voda

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We interviewed Voda, a Nigerian national, for this week’s Ithacan Immigrant who moved to upstate New York after he married.  Voda originally came to ISP to access our legal immigration services and has returned to get assistance in applying to become a U.S. citizen.

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

I came to New York City for vacation and that’s when I first met my wife.  I went home, and after that I visited the U.S. again for her birthday, went home, and then came back a third time and got married. 

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

We moved to Ithaca because my wife is from around this area and she wanted to be close to her family.  She thought this would be a good place to raise a child.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

I looked at it like it was too quiet and boring for me.  I was sad for a couple of months and then I started acknowledging the beauty little by little and finally realized wow, this place is really beautiful.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

Double quarter pounder with cheese and a vanilla milkshake.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

Dick’s Sporting Goods – they have clothes that last long.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

Ithaca is kind of a tourist destination.  It has so many beautiful places that my hometown doesn’t have.  My hometown was about the same size as New York City but it’s not a tourist location.

Ithacan Immigrant: Gaw

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Gaw came to the U.S. almost 15 years ago as a refugee from Burma and was resettled in Ithaca with her family.  Since then, several extended family members, including her sister, husband, and 5 boys, have also moved to Ithaca through the U.S. Refugees Admissions Program.   Over the years, Gaw and her family members have accessed various services we offer at Catholic Charities including our citizenship & naturalization services.

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ISP: Why did you come to U.S.?

I was living in a camp in Thailand for two years and then came to the U.S. as a refugee.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

My husband had a friend living in Ithaca and so we came here.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

I thought Ithaca was quiet – I liked it.  But at first I was scared to come here because I didn’t know English.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

I like salad – I really like vegetables with dressing.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

I don’t really do much of the shopping because my husband takes care of that.  He usually goes to Wal-Mart and Wegmans.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

In Burma, I lived in a village and we had to hide and were always scared. It seemed like over there we had to try to make everything safe all the time.    When we came here we were free.