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13 Beautiful Immigration Stories That'll Remind You What Makes America Great

"My family and I suffered a lot, but we have found amazing people and communities here in America, and we choose to look at the positive."

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We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share their family's immigration stories. Here are some of their moving stories...

1. "No one chooses to become a refugee. No one chooses to be forced out of their home. No one chooses to leave behind everyone and everything they love."

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"Almost 40 years ago, my parents and grandparents came to the US from Iran as political refugees, escaping a revolution and totalitarian regime that was not only executing their family and friends, but also destroying the country they loved. They left behind their homes, loved ones, all of their belongings, family heirlooms, and most importantly a sense of comfort and familiarity that only comes with being home — feelings that they would ultimately never regain.

"Seemingly overnight, my grandparents went from dining with royalty to working in a dry cleaning shop, struggling to understand a language they barely spoke. They didn’t know how long they would be here, or if they would ever see their homeland again. At the end of the day, however, they saw themselves as the lucky ones.

"While many others were left behind at the mercy of a government that prided itself on persecuting and restricting the rights of its own people, they were in America — the land of the free, the land of opportunity. They came with the mentality that if they worked hard, they would be able to rebuild some shell of the life they once knew, and at the end of the day, they were comforted by the endless opportunities available for their children in this amazing country that they would now call home. While the pain of leaving one’s home never quite goes away, the sense of hope that comes with moving to a country that is known for liberty and justice provides a crucial level of comfort.

"No one chooses to become a refugee. No one chooses to be forced out of their home. No one chooses to leave behind everyone and everything they love. Even for immigrants who come to this country by choice, in search of better opportunities — like many of your families and ancestors may have — the choice to leave everything and start over is never an easy one. I merely urge you to keep this in mind as you continue to watch these events unfold." — dsafai09

2. "Her courage ensured that no one in my immediate family suffered under Communism or National Socialism."

"When she was 15, my Slovenian great-grandmother was almost forcibly married to a man three times her age. Her brother paid for her passage on a boat to America, where she settled in a Slovenian American community in Ohio. She had 10 children, raised chickens, and survived the Great Depression. Her courage — leaving home, alone, at an age before today’s teenagers can even get a driver’s license — ensured that no one in my immediate family suffered under Communism or National Socialism." — kfinchgnehm

3. "My grandpa said his parents always used Czech with each other, their own private language for when they really needed to say how they felt."

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"My great-grandparents, Martin and Katerina Kuchar, came to the US in 1911 from the Czech land of Bohemia and landed at Ellis Island. They settled in Michigan where Martin’s brother already was because they were farmers, and well, that’s what you did in Michigan at the time.

"They would go on to have eight children. Their dream was quite simple: work hard farming and create a home for their family. Although they did eventually learn English, my grandpa said his parents always used Czech with each other, their own private language for when they really needed to say how they felt. Here is a picture of them later in life, but as you can see Katerina, or Katie as Martin called her, never gave up her traditional babushka. Our family name, “Kuchar,” is the word for a cook (the occupation) in Czech." — jenileeh

4. "He became a bounty hunter for cougars, which is where he acquired the name 'Cougar Pete.'"

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"This is my great-great-grandfather. He was born in Denmark in 1880 as Kristian Peder Pedersen and was one of 15 children. His father was a baker and a guard for the king of Denmark. He was in the Danish Navy and sailed around the world on a trip with the crown prince. He came to the US in 1904, where his name was changed to Peter Charles Christian Petersen. In search of the adventure he had read about in James Fenimore Cooper books, he made his way West where he became the town marshal of North Bend, Washington, and the local blacksmith.

"Appointed by Theodore Roosevelt, he was given the honor of being the first forest ranger in Washington state. He later became a bounty hunter for cougars, which is where he acquired the name 'Cougar Pete.' The picture shows him with a grizzly bear he shot and killed. The pelt is allegedly within one of the Smithsonian museums." — j4f8afb3d9

5. "Everyone — Americans and fellow refugees — welcomed us with open arms and helped us rebuild our lives."

"In 1975, Vietnam fell to Communist rule after 19 years of war. My dad fought in the war as a captain for the South Vietnamese Army along with his fellow brothers who believed in a free Vietnam. Like thousands of other Vietnamese, my parents tried but failed to escape by boat. Stuck in Vietnam, the Communists forced my dad to attend 're-education camp' where he endured hard labor as well as mental and physical torture. Living without basic human rights like freedom of speech, opinion, and religion under Communist Vietnam, it was all about survival. It was incredibly hard, but my parents protected us and provided us with as much as they could.

"In 1994, our application to resettle in the United States was accepted for review. After two years of intense vetting, my family was finally granted refuge in America. With nothing more than a few hundred bucks, each other, and hearts full of hope, we arrived in the US in 1996.

"Everyone — Americans and fellow refugees — welcomed us with open arms and helped us rebuild our lives. We never once felt like we were unwanted. Without this opportunity or acceptance, we would not be where we are today — successful, contributing members of this beautiful country. We will be forever indebted to the United States for giving us a second chance at life. We will be forever grateful that the US of 1996 erred on the side of love rather than fear." — namnguyen

6. "My family and I suffered a lot, but we have found amazing people and communities here in America."

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"My family and I moved to the United Stated in 2007 from Iraq. I was 12 years old and we were fleeing from war and turmoil. My dad and two siblings lived in Jordan while my mom worked in the green zone. She would visit us for a week every six months. You can imagine how tortured I felt seeing everyone’s mother during parent-teacher conferences knowing mine wasn’t around.

"The past nine days brought back the same foreign feeling I endured when we moved to Jordan in 2006. I was shell-shocked to find out that our neighboring country made us feel so out of place; meanwhile, when we moved to the States, we were welcomed with open hands and hearts. I refused to see the 2003 invasion as a terrible thing. My family and I suffered a lot, but we have found amazing people and communities here in America, and we choose to look at the positive. I am insisting once again to look at the positive during these hard times. The unity and the support that’s pouring in from city to city is absolutely astonishing." — ayaa46b2f4474

7. "I’m proud to be a Jewish-American."

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"This is a photo of my grandmother, great-aunt, great-uncle, and great-grandmother. My family left Poland in 1932 because even though Poland had recently been separated from Russia, there was still a lot of anti-Semitism. My great-grandfather had come over to the United States from Poland in 1928 and lived with my great-grandmother’s brothers in the Bronx. He later applied for naturalization in 1932 and was able to secure passage and citizenship for the rest of his family. My great-aunt came here when she was 5 years old and is still alive today. I’m proud to be a Jewish-American." — irisg41132f113

8. "My mom’s immigration picture hangs on my fridge and reminds me of her journey."

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"My grandfather Francisco was born in Eureka, California, but at a young age moved back to Mexico where his family originated. My grandmother Lucia grew up in Aguascalientes, Mexico. They married and raised their children in Mexicali. My grandfather found seasonal work in the US, harvesting fruit. As my uncles became older they would spend months at a time with him, harvesting, and sending money back to my grandmother and the younger children in Mexico to support them, while my grandmother did housekeeping work and took care of their 11 children.

"When my mom was 7 years old, she and the rest of the family moved to the US. I love hearing my mom retell her immigration story as she remembers it…as a tiny, scared, 7-year-old girl on her moving day. She remembers fondly the pink poncho with pom-pom ties that she wore, which made her feel safe and comfortable while moving to a new unknown place. She often talks about her first year in an English-speaking elementary school and the struggle of learning the language and customs. On her first Saint Patrick’s day, she was so afraid that the she would be punished for not wearing green, she got off the bus and ran home. She talked about the struggle of wearing homemade clothes and wearing the same things every other day, while her friends had closets full of clothes. Growing up poor, the only toy she was able to keep from her childhood was a stuffed polar bear she got as a baby. I'm 26 years old and married, but I still sleep with that bear every night, and my mom’s immigration picture hangs on my fridge and reminds me of her journey." — breannalucia

9. "They pooled their money together, but only had enough money left over to buy one ticket to America."

"My great-grandfather, Leopold, came over from Germany by way of Argentina with a handful of his buddies. They had heard Argentina was the place to make it big, but after a few months living there, realized that America had better opportunities. They pooled their money together, but only had enough money left over to buy one ticket to America. They drew straws and my great-grandfather won. Leaving his friends behind in Argentina, he traveled to Ellis Island, eventually settling in Chicago. There, he met my great-grandmother and started a family. His son, my grandfather, worked hard and went on to study medicine at Notre Dame and the Mayo Clinic." — marykathryna

10. "My family helped me keep ahold of my Cuban roots by telling me stories, speaking to me in Spanish, and keeping the Cuban rhythm alive."

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"Both my maternal grandparents and my paternal grandparents sought out a better life after Fidel Castro took over in Cuba, so they headed to America. My maternal grandparents came first, and it was my maternal grandmother who worked in the same factory as my paternal great-grandmother, who helped bring my father and his parents here legally from Cuba.

"In a twist of fate, my mother married my father as their families would get together constantly once here in New York. Yes, I am an American, but my family helped me keep ahold of my Cuban roots by telling me stories, speaking to me in Spanish, and keeping the Cuban rhythm alive. I am proud to be both American and Cuban and am eternally grateful for the sacrifice and courage in seeking out something extremely foreign to them while allowing me to have the rights and values I have today." — catheriner9

11. "The Chinese government seized all their assets when she was 4, leaving the family with only $25."

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"My grandmother was born in Shanghai in the late '40s, shortly after WWII. Her parents were Portuguese and Russian, and with the rise of the Communist regime they knew they had to escape. The Chinese government seized all their assets when she was 4, leaving the family with only $25. She and her family escaped to Macau, then a Portuguese colony, where her two younger siblings were born.

"They lived in refugee camps while her uncle worked with multiple Catholic charities and the US government to get their green cards. His sister lived in California and offered to sponsor them and buy their passage to the United States. They boarded the SS President Cleveland in 1956 when she was 10 and reached Angel Island in San Francisco. All the children of the original four siblings have attended college, including graduate and law school. Through the hard work they achieved the American dream, and I — the second generation — am thankful every day for their sacrifice." — caturner2001

12. "My mom and her siblings always tell stories about how many speeding tickets they got out of because my grandfather saved the lives of so many cops."

"In the 1950s, my Turkish Muslim grandfather came to America to get a better education. He was only going to stay long enough to get his PhD, but ended up meeting a beautiful nurse whom he fell in love with. He became one of the most respected surgeons at his hospital and everyone in the area knew who he was. My mom and her siblings always tell stories about how many speeding tickets they got out of because my grandfather saved the lives of so many cops." — tkbabs

13. "I share my mother's story to enlighten those who feel that immigrants come to this country as 'criminals' and 'rapists.'"

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"My mother Elida Gonzalez emigrated from Mexico to the US in the '70s. After her husband died, it became difficult for my mother to put food on the table. She saw that many men were traveling to the US on a quest to find work and make a better life for their families and Elida thought she would do the same. She began planning her departure, hired a “coyote” (Mexican term for someone who helps people cross the border), and set the date to leave. She was accompanied by her younger sister Laura who was planning on making the journey to the United States on the search for a better education.

Soon, Elida, Laura, and Elida's six-year-old daughter Lupita (my older sister) were on their way. They traveled by night, and walked for hours though mountain ranges until they reached the peak of a mountain where about one hundred people sat still waiting for a call signaling that the coast was clear so they could keep moving. Amongst the crowd were people of all ages — men who sat alone fearful of what was to come, teenage boys and girls whose families did not have enough money to all make the journey, whose families scraped up what ever money they could to send their children away from poverty.

Hours passed before my mother’s coyote signaled for them to go. By the time they reached a tunnel where we could make camp the air had grown cold. The group rested for a few hours and then traveled through a long and narrow tunnel for six hours, and finally arrived in San Ysidro a district in the city of San Diego, CA north of the U.S and Mexican border.

I share my mother's story to enlighten those who feel that immigrants come to this country as “criminals” and “rapists.” When people such as Donald Trump say Mexico is not sending their finest, I say those people are all wrong. Mexico is sending their bravest and their most hard working. Immigrants from every nation come to the United States to prosper, and create better life for themselves." — daniespericueta

Some entries were edited for clarity and length.

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