Today I am celebrating 30 years of living in the United States.

In my column in this week's issue of the La OpiniónI reflect on my life in the United States over the past 30 years. Here is what I wrote:

Today, December 5, I celebrate 30 years since I arrived in 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. Today I am a lawyer thanks to my mother's vision to come to the U.S. and the opportunities that this great country has given 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 my mother for her sacrifices to give us a better life, all the people who helped me along the way, and God for everything he has given us.

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

For more information and immigration tips, read my blog

Mr. Nelson A. Castillo is an immigration attorney and Past President of the Hispanic National Bar Association.

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