By Carrie Powers, Bedford Public School English Language Learner Program Administrator
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
Those famous words loom high on the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in New York City. Today, the Bedford Plaza Hotel echoes the same hope and stands tall to more than 200 migrants from Haiti, Venezuela, Colombia, Honduras, Brazil, and Chile.
Their journey to the United States is unimaginable, but their hope for a better life for themselves and their children has endured as they arrive in the United States with little or no belongings.
I was fortunate to interview Robert, a 30-year-old man originally from Haiti whose name has been changed to protect his identity, with the help of Ana Carla Tavares Quaglioz, a Portuguese interpreter.
Robert grew up in Haiti and was born into a big family among 15 people and he has been working since he was 10 years old alongside his father on a family farm, planting vegetables.
When he turned 15, he rented a motorcycle to deliver goods in his town and to make money to help his family. There was a lot of political unrest in Haiti and he supported a different political party. They threatened him, which prompted his first migration.
He decided to move to Brazil when he was 25 years old. In Brazil, he learned the language, worked and got married, and then decided to migrate a second time after facing religious discrimination.
He and his wife, along with their two-year-old daughter, decided to make the journey to the United States. They walked, got rides, and were often homeless without food on a 32-day journey through nine countries to the Mexico border.
He said that for days, he would carry his two-year-old daughter with their meager belongings that consisted of just two small backpacks. Sometimes they were in a car and sometimes they had to walk for five days without food or sleep.
Along the journey, he ran out of money and he had to call his family in Haiti. His father sold the family cows to help them.
They were able to hire someone to get them through Mexico and show them the way to the U.S. border.
Once they made it to the U.S. border, they applied online for a legal pathway to the United States. It took three months for their authorization to be granted. They waited in Mexico until they were able to make a third migration to the United States.
They made it to Texas legally to the refugee center and there were signs posted on the walls for different cities to relocate. Miami, New York, Chicago, and Boston were a few. He had a friend who was in Boston, so he decided to relocate there.
When they landed in Boston, he could not reach his friend, so they stayed and slept in the airport for several days until the police noticed them and asked them for their passports. His daughter was also sick. They gave their passports to the officers and they were resettled in a hotel in Braintree, then moved to the Bedford Plaza Hotel. They have been in the hotel for the last 20 days.
Robert said of his hopes and dreams for him and his family: “I hope to work to give a future to my daughter. I will do anything and I hope that God will help me to find a job here and that I can afford to live here with my family.”
Robert’s “Haitian Dream” sounds much like the “American Dream.” Here’s hoping that he can find his way.
Carrie Powers is the EL Director K-12 of Bedford Public Schools.