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(From left to right) Nelly Jiménez-Arévalo, Liliana Velásquez, Carmen Guerrero, and Emma Restrepo were chosen as the four honorees for the “I am an American Immigrant” campaign. Photo: Simón Bolívar

United by courage, determination

Each of the four women recognized at the ceremony spoke about their lives, work, and hopes for the future of immigrants in the U.S.

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As Miriam Enriquez, director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs, described the four finalists in the I Am an American Immigrant campaign, they “embody everything that it means to be a strong, Latina woman.”

Carmen Guerrero, who presented her speech in Spanish and English, dedicated her award to undocumented Latino immigrants throughout the world. Guerrero arrived in the U.S. from Mexico in 2000 and founded the organization Coalición Fortaleza Latina in Norristown, PA.

“I knock door to door, heart to heart, and I find that [we] ourselves have changed this great nation,” Guerrero said.

Emma Restrepo, a Colombian immigrant, accomplished journalist, and host of the radio program Para Ti Mujer, noted the immense injustices immigrants now face.

“While I am one of the immigrants who transits freely to a better future, there are parents at the border who are being separated from their children using lies and false promises,” she stated.

Liliana Velásquez was one of those children who crossed the border, fleeing violence and domestic abuse in her home in Guatemala at the age of 14. She is now a nursing student at Montgomery County Community College and recently published a book about her life.

“I decided that I had to tell my story, because there are many people who don’t have the opportunity...that have suffered, like  me. It is my story, but also it is a story of all of us who have come to this country,” said Velásquez.

Honoree Nelly Jiménez-Arévalo, a Venezuelan immigrant and CEO of ACLAMO Family Centers, observed that there is one quality that perhaps most unites her and the other three women who spoke before her.

“We each have our own ways, our own styles, our own falls, and our own strengths. But of all of the traits there was one that I found among all of us; and it was courage. Valientes,” said Jiménez-Arévalo.

“I believe we all share that trait not because we  don’t get afraid. Not because we don’t fall. Not because we’re perfect, certainly, but because we keep working hard, pushing forward, advocating, voicing our opinions, fighting — yes fighting.”

 

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