A Natural Disaster and a Young Girl’s Dream
By Alicia Argeñal
My family and I were stranded in the United States after Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras in 1998. I was 12 years old. Initially we had only come for a family vacation, but we soon found out how quickly our plans changed.
My parents decided to stay, not knowing the implications of this decision at the time. Because Honduras was designated as country for its citizens to receive legal relief, we were granted Temporary Protective Status (TPS) in 1999.
At the time, this was a blessing in disguise because it allowed us to live and survive in a new country. But now, more than 10 years since Honduras’ designation, I live a life in limbo. At any moment, the government could decide that Honduras no longer requires this special designation and TPS can be taken away not just for me, but for the hundreds of other Hondurans living like this. Since TPS itself does not confer legal status, there is no way for my family or I to apply for residency or even citizenship. We cannot leave the country to visit our relatives because this would make us deportable.
To me, it is becoming an unintended consequence of not only a catastrophe that took place in my home country, but the broken immigration laws that don’t permit legal movement of displaced individuals like myself.
I am now 26 years old and in the prime of my young adult life. Although I worked hard academically in high school to reach college, I was unable to pursue any type of degree because of the exorbitant amount being charged for “out of state” and “international” students. This came to me as a shock as I’ve lived in this country for 14 years. The fact that I would be the first in my family to attend college keeps my hopes alive.
I know that I can’t sit around waiting for something to happen. I need to MAKE it happen.
Being part of the Collier County Neighborhood Stories Project has made me realized this important difference for my life. I know that it will take many more people to step up and do something about the many injustices in our community. But at least I know that I currently belong to an initiative that believes in my personal and professional development and believes in me and my dreams.
Our growth is tied to our community’s investment and belief that we CAN make a difference. We are in the process of expanding our infrastructure to develop more strategies to combat criminalization and racial profiling, more informative trainings and workshops for the community to protect themselves and their families and more tactics to help people like me achieve their dreams.
Contribute to my development within this great initiative and to my dreams to continue pursuing my education. At a minimum, it can cost you as little as $20 a month to invest in us. You will have the satisfaction of bringing light to the lives of individuals still living in the shadows.
I’ll leave you with some photos of my mother, who like many mothers, try to do right by their children. Please consider investing in my community and me as my mother did.