The Life of an Immigrant During Coronavirus


Cover Art (Lolita Angelcheva)

Lolita Angelcheva, News Reporter

The United States of America is a melting pot of diversity. The streets are filled with every race, ethnicity, and nationality possible. However, the streets are also filled with discrimination of every kind, and especially with the recent election surge and pandemic, immigration has been an extremely tough topic to observe. 

My family and I come from a small village in Odessa, Ukraine. We immigrated in 2007 on a Permanent Resident Card, a form of identification where a person is able to enter, live and work in America for 7-12 years, depending on the person. We were scared but excited, ready for the challenges ahead of us. It took us a shorter amount of time to get our green cards than others  because we were on religious escape. My family had been involved in a religion that was not widely accepted by the land. Even today, I still look back at old home videos and see how much of an outcast we were in our own home. The green card application was rigorous and looked at my family from many different angles — there were many chances that we were going to get denied. However, after two months, my father received a phone call saying our papers were processed and we were ready to go to America. 

We boarded the plane and after an 18 and a half hour flight, we arrived in Chicago at the Ukrainian Embassy. This was where we got our actual cards, fingerprints, and work permits. This was the first time my family and I had stepped on American land. My mother recalls a moment where we were standing in line and a native Chicago family was there getting some separate documents. 

“They just kept staring at us. All they saw was a family of three who were lost and confused. I felt like they were laughing at us on the inside,” she recalled.

My mother never forgot this moment, because her first American memory was being embarrassed and ashamed.

My grandfather and I before I left for America. (Lolita Angelcheva)

After this, we were then put back on another plane and eventually landed in Colorado. My family chose this state because my grandparents had already built a life before us out here, they were the ones who glued everyone together. We have been here for almost 12 years now.  After a decade of living in this country however, we have since experienced more hardship than happiness.

Right before the Coronavirus struck, we were already on the radar. We needed to renew our green cards, but appointments for any immigration-related office were filling up and there was no possibility to find someone. It came to a point where my mother was trying to figure out if my younger brother, born in the USA, could come back with us in case of deportation. We were in the public eye, and the possibility of our “secret” to be uncovered. I was told to not say a single word on our status, and if asked by any public officer, to refer them to someone else in my family who could advocate for us. 

My mother was never someone who showed fear. She’s a single widow who barely speaks English but lives in modern America. She is ruthless and the most beautiful person I have ever met, both inside and out. But moments like these showed a different side in her, something that I have never seen. The stress that came with the possibility of being deported and giving her family a good life, took a lot out of her. She had little to no hope left, and it changed her. 

Then the lockdown came, jobs were cut and money was lost. We were losing hope, trying to figure out if we can stay in the country for another week. I had to go to work not knowing if agents could come to our house and arrest my mother on illegal stay. If anything happened, my family would be separated and broken apart. On top of all of this, we had to make sure we were being cautious on everything involving the pandemic. There was no option of hospitalization for us because of the possibility of being called out, so we had to stay home.  The pandemic hit like nothing before. My mom’s work was closing, and bills were piling up. We were being locked in, with no exception or hope. 

However, there was a small light at the end of the tunnel. My mom learned that there was actually a possibility for us to renew our identification. This way was considered before, but we didn’t know if this was possible because of our specific case involving religion and family issues. A couple of weeks passed and my mother had found a man who would help. He was an old friend, someone who worked in her office. He spoke four languages and helped many people in his time. He was our angel, someone who was sent down to save us. After his introduction, we sat in a small, uncomfortable room for 4 hours, filling out applications and reading through endless terms. It was the first time I saw my mom take notes and really listen. This was something that had to be perfect the first time. But in the end, we had renewed our residency. It was like a weight had been lifted off of our shoulders. We were finally free, able to walk the streets not being scared of an immigration officer arresting us or getting deported. 

Six months have passed since that one fateful day. In the time since, we have still been cautious. There have still been times where I was interviewed and examined on my status in this country. I’ve come home with packets for my mom, filled with federal information on how I can “stay safe.” And in this time, I have realized more and more about the broken system of America. We are not the only people who have been in this position, and there have been even worse cases. This has brought me to try to fight for the people and fight for what I believe is right. America has created a horrific and frightening place for immigrants. We come to this country seeking love, freedom, and justice but get knocked down trying to find it. It is time to find that exact justice and unite, before the system forbids us from doing so. 

If you or a family member need help involving immigration, these are some of many organizations that can help