POPSUGAR Latina contributing editor Daisy Fuentes is an author, international television personality, model, designer, and animal advocate.
My parents and I are immigrants. And although we don't think of the term every day, lately — with all that recent talk about immigrants, what a "problem" they've become, and what should be done about it — I've been thinking about our experience.
I was born in Cuba. When I was 3 we moved to Madrid, Spain, where my mother is from, and just before my ninth birthday we moved to New Jersey. In my 20s, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in television. I started as an MTV VJ and went on to represent major companies as a spokesmodel, host countless international TV shows, build my very own successful lifestyle brand, and help support and raise funds for causes and nonprofits dear to my heart.
Sometimes there's a bit of a disconnect for me because I feel very American — I've been here for most of my life. But every now and then, it hits me. This controversial immigration problem . . . They're talking about me, and millions like me from many different countries.
I'm happy to say I never felt like we were a "problem." Yes, it was a bit of a culture shock, but it was an amazing experience for this kid. It was difficult going to a new school and not speaking a word of English; fortunately, there were many others who also spoke Spanish (although they had a hard time understanding my strong Castilian accent). I quickly picked it up, and as I learned English in school, I had a private teacher making sure I never forgot my roots and my Spanish: my mom!
She brought my school books from Spain and gave me extra assignments. I hated it, but quickly realized what a gift she'd given me by making me fully bilingual. My mom went to school to learn English and computer programming skills while working in a factory; my dad worked and ran my grandfather's small grocery store while learning about real estate. We were and are so grateful for the opportunities this country offered us.
Yes, in my opinion, the US should absolutely control its borders but let's remember that immigration gives the country an economic edge in the world economy. While I'm one of the immigrants people may consider a "problem," I'd like to let everyone know that I, too, frown upon those who come to this country — my country — to take advantage of the system, cause harm, and spread hate, and that there are many of us immigrants who contribute and help make America an amazing country.
Michelle Obama said it best at this year's Democratic National Convention: "Don't let anyone ever tell you that this country isn't great. That somehow we need to make it great again. Because this, right now, is the greatest country on earth." The greatest thing about this country is that we all feel welcomed. We all have freedom. We all help one another. We all have the same opportunities. We're all free to have and celebrate our own customs and traditions at home, but we also shape and create new customs and traditions from this beautiful country we will forever call home.