Home to Me: Immigrant Stories from NC

Too often, immigrant stories are told by others, whether in the media, legislature, history books, or in our common imagination. “Home to Me: Immigrant Stories from NC” is a new multimedia series based on the belief that stories told by immigrants, in their own words, have the power to change our assumptions about who immigrants are and deepen our understanding of the migration experience.

Through video and other multimedia components, the series explores the challenges some immigrants face as North Carolina residents, the importance of immigration reform at the national level as well as fair and reasonable policies locally and statewide, and how North Carolina has become home to thousands of people from all over the world. “Home to Me” engages themes such as discrimination and exploitation, cultural identity, strong family ties, and immigrants’ hopes for the future. Some arrived here as children, others are new to the state, but they all have come to call the Tar Heel state home.

The NC Justice Center invites citizens to watch “Home to Me” and share these stories with friends and family members to demonstrate how immigrants are part of the fabric of our state and highlight the need for policies that respect the humanity of all of our neighbors. Sharing “Home to Me” stories through social media using the hashtags #HomeToMe and #IAMaMigrant (as suggested by the The United Nations for a worldwide migrant voices project for 2013) will make it possible for North Carolinians to engage in the dialogue about the future of our state and our economy, to address questions of global justice, and to discuss public policies that could move us forward together. We welcome you to the conversation.

Valeria Sotelo

This month’s video features Valeria Sotelo, a student at Salem College. Born in Mexico, Valeria’s DREAMer documentation allows her to be here legally for two more years but she isn’t sure whether she’ll be able to find work once she’s done with school. Even if the DREAM Act were to pass, Valeria said, her parents – who work hard and pay taxes – would still face challenges to becoming citizens. Valeria wants lawmakers to consider the individuals who have come to call North Carolina their home and have worked tirelessly to achieve their dreams, both for themselves and their families.

Sai Kham

January's video features Sai Kham, a restaurant owner in Charlotte who emigrated to the U.S. from Laos in 1987. His journey to the country was tumultuous, after having first moved to Thailand when he was 14, followed by a stay in a refugee camp before being brought to the U.S. by his aunt and uncle. Sai arrived in Charlotte with only a dictionary to his name, after having given away all of his other possessions in the Thai refugee camp. Sai now runs the Pho Daravan Restaurant in Charlotte. Despite the challenge of running a business and staying afloat financially, Sai said he’s grateful to be living in the U.S. after having grown up among war and struggle.

The Ornela Family

This month’s audio piece features the Ornela family (some names have been changed), who sat down in Pullen Park to talk about their experiences. Self-described as the "Three Musketeers," mother Muriel and daughters Dani and Nora have seen each other through thick and thin, relying on each other through a relocation from New Jersey to North Carolina—Dani and Nora's father stayed in New Jersey for work—and even the occasional car trouble. Nora is currently a community college student and artist, and Dani is a recent applicant to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Although their lives in North Carolina feel relatively safe and offer some educational opportunities, as an undocumented resident, Muriel often has to rely on her daughters for mundane tasks. Nora was born in the United States and is a citizen.