I was 17 years old, hanging out with friends, munching on Big Macs. All of us were high school seniors. We grew up in Southeast San Diego, where dreams were often crushed by the effects of poverty on education, community, and family.
We started talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up. When it was my turn, I said that I wanted to be a lawyer. Everyone started laughing. I couldn’t show it, but I was hurt, deeply hurt.
It felt like I was stranded alone on an island.
Even though the doubts of my peers amplified my own personal doubts, I knew my dreams were attainable.
After all, my mother had told me at least 100 times growing up, “If there is a will, there is a way.”
She explained to me that, at some point in their lives, everyone feels overwhelmed and demoralized. But she insisted, this is when you should not quit. She emphasized a better day is often lurking just around the corner, so long as people keep moving forward.
My mother taught me how to persist.
“Fall down seven times,” says a Japanese proverb, “Get up eight.”
When you’re chasing your dreams, you are likely to fall short at some time. Get up, dust yourself off, and start fighting again. Eventually, you’ll achieve your dreams.
You won’t succeed if you accept the pessimism of others.
You won’t succeed if you let personal doubts control your decisions.
You won’t succeed if you quit.
The ability to keep on truckin’ when times are bad is a trait many immigrants must have in order to overcome the hurdles they face once they enter our immigration system.
Ernesto was a 48 year old immigrant from Guatemala. In 1990, he applied for asylum. He lost. He applied under ABC. He applied under NACARA. He was sent to immigration court to face deportation charges. In December 2012, three judges later, he became a lawful permanent resident.
Lucy entered the U.S. in the 1980s and worked in the fields picking crops and doing hard labor. She sought benefits under the old Reagan legalization programs but was denied. 23 years later, she was granted a green card.
George was 24 years old when he filed his first set of immigration documents. After ten years of court battles, after three immigration court trials and three immigration appeals, his case was successfully resolved at the federal court of appeals.
As a deportation defense lawyer, I have been fortunate to meet and help many other successful immigrants who have overcome huge odds to become productive, law-abiding permanent residents and citizens of the United States.
Like Ernesto, Lucy and George refused to give up. They won because they would not allow themselves to become immobilized by setbacks.
They won because they believed a better day was lurking around the corner.
Like Ernesto, Lucy and George shared an important understanding about life’s many challenges:
“Persistent people begin their success where others end in failure.”