From Haiti to the United States

I am so happy that Reginald agreed to share his story on today’s post. Interestingly, Reggie and I virtually met when I used to Livestream on Periscope. We became friends since, and I have to admit, should meet in person way more often.

How was life in Haiti like?  

The best part about living in Haiti was the weather. Very warm all the time. I do miss it.  Another great part was that everyone has the “it takes a village mentality“. So raising me was not just my parent’s job, the entire community pitched in. The cons were the poverty and political unrest. Once I was out of school for months because of a coup d’état. 

Reginald dressed for success

What motivated you to come to the United-States? And why did you or your family choose this country instead of settling in Canada for example?

A lot of my family members were already settled in Connecticut, so my father felt comfortable sending me over to the States to live with his sisters. In the States I had family in Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida. A few of my family members did live in Canada at the time. My dad also spent time in Canada for college. But the US won out. #Muhrica!

Tell me all the details about the process of becoming a US Citizen and what motivated you to becoming a Citizen?

I wanted to be able to work legally in the US. At the time I was doing a lot of illegal work. In addition, at the time, there was a myth about being a citizen in order to attend college. So we paid an immigration lawyer to help my brother and I with the paperwork.  The process was fairly simple because the lawyer assisted with all the documents. I can’t remember when we started but I received my documents and social security number 7 months after my high school graduation. 
A few weeks after I became a resident, I joined the military. During my 6th year in the Marines the military provided a fast and easy service for members who wanted to become citizen and the process was free of cost. So I jumped on that opportunity and filled out the documents. The process was fairly simple. Once I turned in the documents, few months later I had my appointment for the interview and from there I received another letter to report to my swearing in ceremony.

Are you a dual Citizen? How did you forge your identity ? Do you feel growing up in Haiti gave you a distinct outlook on life and if yes, how so?

I came to the US as a teen (12 years old). Very weird time for me trying to adjust to the culture. I watched a lot of TV in order to fully learn the language and understand accepted social behavior. You will see from my pictures that my family members and I are not making any physical contact with each other but in the US, physical contact like hugs are the norm. I did not know what a hug was. Thanks to all the sitcoms I consumed as soon as I arrived, I was able to adjust my behavior and fully adopt the culture. When I came to the States they called the US the great melting pot. All of these cultures mixed together that become something different. When I became a citizen they changed it from a melting pot to a salad. Instead of all the cultures disappearing into one huge one, they all kept their individualities and flavors but were all sharing the same bowl. I don’t believe I have dual citizenship. I should check on that. Growing up in a third world country and moving to the first world gave me a lot of perspectives. The US offers a lot of things that Haiti lack from being in a house with indoor plumbing, clean water, air conditioning, electricity, security, etc. I am thankful for all of these things now that I’m in the States.

“Instead of all the cultures disappearing into one huge one, they all kept their individualities and flavors but were all sharing the same bowl.”

What were some of the greatest challenges you faced in the processed of becoming a United States Citizen?

To be honest my citizenship process was fairly simple. I remember having to fill out a long form, but once I did that, all I had to do was wait for my appointment letters.

What are some of the American values do you identify with the most?

I like that America continues to be the land of opportunity. Most can come to the country, work hard and are guaranteed some success. Haiti did not offer that to the majority of its population.

From left to right: Reginald’s brother, himself and his father.

Do you have aspirations you feel can become realities here in the US?

I’ve reached a few major milestones since arriving in the States. I joined the Marines. I owned a home. I achieved professional success. Now that I’m a father, my biggest dream is to continue to providing my children with everything that is needed. I am fortunate to have done so since their birth and I hope to continuing doing this for many years to come. 

What advice would you give to someone contemplating a long term move or even a possible immigration to the United States?

My advice would be to do it. Today there is much more information available through the internet about the process and it’s complexities. Hire an immigration lawyer if you can afford one or seek advice from someone who’s had a recent experience with the process.