After hearing the news of the immigration ban, I curled up into a tight ball on my side. I felt the tears roll sideways down my face as I called my green-card-holding mother.
“Don’t cry,” she told me. “Stay strong.”
I was just 3 years old when mom, dad, and I packed our small bags to the brim with remnants of clothes, culture and dreams and moved 4,584 miles away from the only life we had ever known. My mom and I came to Philadelphia while she was pregnant with my little sister so that we could live a better life. We came to cash our check for the American dream, but that dream has failed so many people. It has failed my mother, and it has and will fail countless others.
My mother was running with me tied to her back, barefoot, dodging bullets during the First Liberian Civil War. My mother was drinking water at night because in the dark, she could pretend it was clean. She used to make bread early in the morning and sell each small roll for 5 cents each — saving the money to buy school supplies even though she did not have shoes.
But no matter how hard everything was adjusting to a new and foreign world, my mom worked toward that goal relentlessly. While working a full-time job, taking care of three children, and being a homemaker, my mom got her master’s degree in social work from Temple. My mother has always reminded me to be proud of who I am and the people that I come from.
When I close my eyes and think of home, I see my mother in the kitchen slicing mango to give to me, singing sweet hymnals, and planting her flowers outside of our house. I feel her love, warmth and hard work radiating around me when I’m in a space with her. I hear the worry in her voice when I forget to tell her if I arrived home safely from school.
Philadelphia and Temple have opened doors for my family and myself that we never knew existed. My mother came from nearly nothing, and has always provided for me even when she did not have it. She taught me how to love, be honest and how to be a strong immigrant woman just like her. It is her right to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and I will not stop fighting until she and other immigrants do.
Richelle Kota is a junior Spanish major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.