Thanks to life

First of all, I want to wish all my readers a happy Thanksgiving.

In this week's Consulta Migratoria® column I recount my life as an immigrant in the United States and thank life for the many good things it has given me.

This is the column:

Tomorrow we will be celebrating Thanksgiving and I have a lot to be thankful for.

Almost 32 years ago I came to the United States. Like many immigrants, I survived many hardships. I understand the life of the immigrant who overcomes adversity to reach prosperity, because I have experienced poverty, family separation and discrimination firsthand. But today, I am a lawyer because of my mother's vision to come to the U.S. and the opportunities this great country has provided me.

I was only four years old when my mother left El Salvador in search of a better life for herself and her children. It was seven years before I saw her again.

My mother came to the U.S. in 1974 on a tourist visa, but remained undocumented. She obtained permanent residency thanks to the sponsorship of a family for whom she worked as a housekeeper. That is how she was able to return to El Salvador to find me and my sister and bring us to this country.

At first it was hard to adjust. My mother was single and worked three jobs to support us, and we had to share our home with other people because she couldn't pay all the rent.

Since I did not know how to speak English, the school moved me back to the sixth grade, although in El Salvador I had finished the eighth grade. I quickly learned English, but due to bad influences I dropped out of school. I tried to go back but gave up because I felt out of place around students younger than me. I am, as they say in English, a high school dropout.

While working at a gas station I learned that I could go to college if I passed a high school equivalency test (GED). So I went to community college, and eventually to St. John's University where I earned a bachelor's degree in finance with honors. I went on to earn a Juris Doctorate in Law.

I am an immigration lawyer because I want to help other immigrants seeking a better life. That is why I have advocated for comprehensive immigration reform in front of Congress and the White House.

Today I thank God for all the blessings He has given us. Also, I thank my mother for her sacrifices to give us a better life and all the people who have helped us along the way. In addition, I am immensely grateful to the United States for taking my family in and giving us the opportunity to have a better future.

My journey in this country is an example of how an immigrant with conviction, studies and perseverance can achieve the American dream.