By Al Rodas and Yulth Oyola
I have already six years working as an interpreter for migrants from Colombia and Venezuela, specially those who ask political asylum in the USA. I am also a professor of Spanish in the FAU. Most of the students are professional.
Colombian migrants in Florida
I think the situation of the Colombian migrants becomes more difficult. The first thing to know is that many people go to USA without the enough preparation and knowledge of how things work in the United States. When they come here, they have to know. for example, that they need two conditions to get the status of legal within this territory: a permission to work and the social security, and these two are very difficult documents to get. The people who want to migrant to USA have also in mind what it is called the “American Dream” thinking that money in the USA hangs from the trees and falls from the sky and only you have to take it, but reality is harder than you can imagine.The first fight is to get those two small and very important documents.
I have many professionals who came to Fl looking for political asylum. Specially judges, majors, professors, policemen, militars and many others. 15 years ago things were different and the ones who came to USA were rather workers and farmers, but now the numbers have changed radically and there are many Colombian professionals looking to migrate to the USA. According to my consideration, I can say that about 95% of persons coming to this country are professionals, at least those who come to regularize their stay and look for political asylum. But it happens some problems: first the two documents I said before and without those documents nobody can get a legal work. If they are professionals, like professors, judges, lawers, policemen and so on, they can not get a job like professors, judges, lawyers, policemen if they do not have the permission to work and the social security. As those documents are so difficult to get, these professionals, who used to be “doctors” in Colombia, have to start from zero here in Florida and that is the second problem. To start from zero means, they have to do heavy works, just as any other worker. Just imagine a very good professor, with many diplomas at home, thousand of thousand of pages of books in their head and having to work in a restaurant, up loading things in a store and things like that. That is not easy, more in a place like Florida where the wheather is heavy, humide, with temperatures of more than 30 degreees in summer. Those professionals are also matured people, many of them aged 50 to 60. A good thing is that those persons at that age could not get easily a job in Colombia, but at least here they are considered again as useful people to society. That is a problem in our country where an aged person is practically marginalized while in USA age is not seen as an obstacle to work.
I have seen persons from practically whole Colombia. In the last times I have seen many doctors and ex-majors, many from La Costa (Cartagena de Indias, Sincelejo, San Andrés), many from the main cities like Bogotá, Medellín and Cali. Men and women alike and all the ages, young and elders and all of them are treated in the same manner. Before the USA authorities there are not distinction between Colombians, for this reason a very literared Colombian wanting to migrate, has to pass the same conditions as it is done by a simple person. In USA there are not “doctors”.
The USA goverment helps migrants through the NGOs that have to see directly with them. It is very important to underline that today people have more idea of what is the meaning of the political asylum. The political asylum is a very old concept, but it is not much clear by many. Now many people know that it can be used if you are persecuted or you feel in danger in your own nation and so many ask it. Practically anybody who is persecuted by any illegal and violent group or even by an official statment, can ask political asylum. But many people come to USA or other countries fleeing political dangers, but they do not know they can ask political asylum and for this reason they are treated as anybody who just want to migrate due to economic reasons, that are also very important, but it is not the same.
Of course people in Florida think that Colombia is violent and a main producer of drugs. But with this, Colombia is very famous worldwide due to the beauty of its women. Many USA men of any age would like to know a Colombian lady. Other think that make Colombia famous in Florida is that the Colombians are very intelligent and hard workers. Colombians are not considered lazy or slow, but active and good workers.
In the airport there is a public list of countries that they recommend not to visit due to security concerns: the first in the list is Iraq and the second is Colombia. Of course, it makes that many persons from Florida avoid to considere Colombia for visit. The thing is that not all follow the official warning and they go to Colombia. When they return they come amazed of what they saw. It happens with many of my students. They talk a lot about the beauty of the country, they say that cities are not dangerous, that cities are huge and modern and they underline the kindness of the Colombian people and how welcoming they are. They like very much the Colombian food. I think the action of the Colombian government to give back to the communities the Colombian roads through more security has been a great benefit for the international and national tourism and it is said very much abroad specially by those foreigners who have visited Colombia.
Going back to Colombia
I would return to my country, of course. It is not yet planned because I am working and helping those people of my country who look for a new life in a foreign country that is not easy as maybe they tought when they left. I am doing a service to them and I am happy for that. I would return to my dear city, Bogotá and I would return joyfully to my Colombia, because now I think it is possible to success in my country.