Immigrant Heritage Month

Immigrant Heritage Month

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 board members:

Lia, Director of Immigration 

“My father was a college professor in South Korea. When we arrived to the U.S. back in 1985, my father got a job as a delivery man. When my dad realized his job couldn’t support his wife and three children, he went back to South Korea to continue teaching. My mom stayed behind to raise us, kids, while she worked 12 hour days at her own business. For almost 18 years my father sent back almost his entire salary to the states and only came to see us during his vacations. When I passed the bar and I called my dad in S. Korea, he cried and told me that I made his American dream come true, and all those years apart were worth it. That photo is of me and my dad- my Superman and the reason why I’m a lawyer today.”

Jose, Client

Jose came to City of Highland Park, Illinois – Government from Juárez, Mexico on a tourist visa in 2015 to visit his girlfriend. Once he arrived, he heard about the Highland Park-Highwood Legal Aid Clinic from friends at a local business. Staff and volunteer attorneys at the clinic provided him with trusted legal advice and guided Jose through the process of gaining residency. Jose loves his new life here in the U.S. and is hoping to bring his mother here in the near future.

Esteban, Accredited Representative

“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 necessitated them giving up school to help raise their siblings. However, these unfortunate circumstances molded my parents into the hardest workers I have ever known and my constant inspiration. For decades, 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. These demanding work schedules provided for little family time, but I recognized it as a necessary sacrifice because of their dedication to my sister and me. Their extraordinary work ethic and perseverance have been my greatest motivating factor as I now pursue a law degree to help others like them.”

Richard Gutierrez, Board Member

“My mom is from a rural part of Mexico where she was raised with her other 12 siblings (with no running water, no electricity, no education and no shoes they lived off of the land and natural springs for water). After her father passed away she took on the responsibility of looking after her siblings (financially) so she headed to the United States, by herself to look for work. She spent her entire life working in what is considered to be a “sweatshop” but she managed to send money from every paycheck and put a roof over their heads and put her siblings through college. My dad also immigrated to the United States from Mexico. He crossed the border via the Pacific Ocean (which is not as common) and he almost drowned! He came in his teens and attended adult school learned the language and recently became a US Citizen!”

Gloriana Pacillo, Client

“I first came to the U.S. as a tourist in 1991 from Italy with my husband and three daughters to visit family in Highwood. We were only supposed to stay for a few months, but my family and I decided to stay because even though we knew living here undocumented would be difficult, life back home was very harsh. It was very hard living here without any kind of papers and having to work many jobs for little money, but I just wanted to provide my children with a better future. Twenty-four years later and after many consultations with attorneys that gave me no hope of getting a green card I came across the information for the Highland Park-Highwood Legal Aid Clinic in a newspaper. They were able to help me for free and around my birthday in December of 2015, I was approved for my green card. It was the best birthday present I have ever gotten and the first thing I did was visit my mother back in Italy after so many years of not seeing her.”