June is dedicated to sharing the stories of the immigrants that make America what it is today and supporting diversity in our nation. Every family has an immigration story, or knows someone who is an immigrant. We sure do!
To celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month here are some immigration stories from our clients, staff, and volunteers.
Director of Immigration Lia Hyunji Kim-Yi’s father was a college professor in South Korea. When her family arrived in the U.S. back in 1985, her father got a job as a deliveryman. When he realized his job couldn't support his wife and three children, he went back to South Korea to continue teaching. Her mom stayed behind to raise Lia and her siblings, while she worked 12-hour days at her own business. For almost 18 years Lia’s father sent back almost his entire salary to the family in the U.S. and only saw them during his vacations. When Lia passed the bar and called her father in South Korea, he cried and told her that she “made his American dream come true, and all those years apart were worth it.”
Esteban Carbajal is a Staff Attorney. This is his immigration story. “Both my parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico nearly forty years ago. Each arrived with no more than a fourth-grade education because they came from very poor families that needed them to help contribute to the household income, even as children. However, these unfortunate circumstances molded my parents into the hardest workers and most benevolent persons I have ever known. Both have always been willing to sacrifice so much for the sake of others. After immigrating to the U.S., my father worked twelve-hour shifts as a cook in numerous restaurants and my mom worked multiple jobs at the same time, ranging from housekeeper to seamstress, in order to provide for my sister and me. Their demanding work schedules allowed for very little family time, but I always recognized it as a necessary sacrifice that my parents willingly bore without any complaints because of their dedication to us. Their extraordinary work ethic and kindness were what motivated me the most in pursuing a law degree. Today, I can proudly say that I have obtained my Juris Doctor degree and I will continue to follow my parents’ example by helping others.”
Daniel Schack is a member of the North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic’s Advocacy Committee. His grandfather escaped Nazi Germany. He watched his hometown of Munich burn on Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, he knew needed to leave. After heading first to England and then Australia, he finally ended up in Chicago. Like so many other refugees, Erich Schack owed his and his family’s lives to the willingness of others to take a chance on him. They made a good bet. Daniel’s grandparents built a business in which he and his two brothers now represent the fourth generation.
Miguel & Rosaura
Miguel was a North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic Client. We were honored to help him on his journey to become a new American. His father first came to the U.S. in 1985 with the hope of earning a better living to support our family of eleven back in Mexico. He settled in Colorado with a group of friends from his hometown and worked in agriculture picking various fruits. Seven years later, he joined him at the age of seventeen to help lessen the burden of supporting his large family. Together, they picked peaches, apples, and cherries during the warm months. During the winter months they would make apple juice. About three years later, he made his way to Illinois to reunite with the love of his life and now wife, Rosaura. The Clinic helped her to obtain her LPR status after living in the U.S. undocumented for 25 years. Together, they worked multiple jobs, made many sacrifices, and persevered through countless hardships to establish roots here, but they say, “it was all worth it. We had two beautiful daughters here and I finally became a U.S. citizen this year—something I never imagined when I first came here many years ago as a humble seventeen-year-old from a rural Mexican town. I am so appreciative of the many opportunities this country has provided my family and me, and I am especially proud of being able to say that I am a U.S. citizen.”
Executive Director Susan Shulman’s grandmother, Ruth Shulman (nee Liederman), was born in Leeds, England as her mother made her way from the Ukraine to Chicago to meet her husband. When they arrived, Ruth’s father had already taken another wife. Things were not easy for Ruth – her mother ended up in an asylum, and she grew up in different foster homes. After her father kicked her out of the house at the age of 12, she worked at a department store in downtown Chicago. Eventually, she ended up at the Yellow Truck and Coach Company, where she worked for a dashing manager named Louis Shulman. The rest, as they say, is history.
Ramon was a North Suburban Legal Aid client and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. In March of 2018, he came to us for help to petition his wife and fourteen-year-old stepson—both of whom lived in Mexico—for permanent resident status in the U.S. Ramon and wife had been married for a little over a year by then and finally saved up enough money to pay the processing fees for their case. The following month we submitted both petitions and by December of 2019 the U.S. Department of State had finished processing the cases. Both cases were then placed in a queue for an interview at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, which at the time was taking about one year to be scheduled. Consequently, he was expecting that his wife and stepson would not be able to come into the U.S. until January of 2021. Around the same time the Department of State had notified us that processing of the cases had been completed, Ramon was visiting his wife and stepson in Mexico for the holidays. While there he started to feel very sick and eventually had to be admitted into a hospital where it was discovered that he had cancer. The doctors there advised him to return to the U.S. immediately for further evaluation and treatment.
Before returning to the U.S., Ramon contacted the Clinic to see if there was a way to get his wife and stepson into the U.S. sooner since he was worried that his condition could ultimately be fatal. He wished to have them by his side for support and stated that he did not want to leave them without the opportunity to immigrate. The Clinic prepared a letter to the Department of State explaining Ramon’s situation and sought to expedite the cases based on humanitarian reasons. The Department of State granted our request and scheduled an interview for March 19, 2020.
However, two days before the interview the Department of State announced that all interviews would be canceled because of COVID-19. Luckily, Ramon’s wife and stepson were granted an exception to still be seen because of the extenuating circumstances of their case. They were interviewed on March 20th and approved for permanent residency the same day so they could be reunited with our client shortly afterward.
Ramon just completed his chemotherapy and says he is so grateful for the help we provided him so his family could be by his side during these difficult times.