My American Dream: Offering legal help to other immigrants

he family had moved from Bangladesh to Saudi Arabia after Hossain’s father found work there as a welder. The family — which included Hossain and his brother and sister — had been living in Saudi Arabia for six years when their mother entered a “diversity visa” lottery at a kiosk at the mall and won.

A few months later, on September 9, 2001, the family landed in the gritty Philadelphia suburb of Norristown, Pennsylvania.

“When we first moved to Norristown, my dad was making $5 an hour working at a convenience store from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Then, he worked at a factory from 3 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then he would do construction and odd jobs with neighbors on the weekend,” Hossain said.

Now, Hossain is 25 and studying law at the University of Pennsylvania. He was recently named a Truman Scholar for college juniors who show leadership potential and have an interest in government or public sector service. And he’s also one of 30 recipients of the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, which pays up to $90,000 for the graduate educations of immigrants or children of immigrants.

With his degree, Hossain hopes to become a legal advocate for immigrants from low-income communities, much like his own family.

But his path could have been much different if it weren’t for the help of others.

A few years after the family had moved to the U.S., Hossain’s father tragically died and the family fell into deep poverty.

Norristown’s community rallied around the family.

The local mosque volunteered to pay for his father’s funeral and cover the family’s rent until Hossain’s mother could make enough to take care of it. “All the doctor’s appointments and grocery shopping was assisted by the community,” he said.

Hossain’s mother got a job at the same factory where his dad worked, making electrical components for automobiles. And Hossain — who was in 8th grade at the time — began working at a gas station after school.

By Octavio Blanco for CNN Money
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