Congress: Pass Immigration Reform Now to Help Immigrants Like Me

I never expected to live in Richmond, Virginia. In fact, I never even imagined living in the United States. But after being here since 2017, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. And as June, Immigrant Heritage Month, comes to an end, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be an American — but hope Congress will extend it to others as well.

My story starts in Venezuela: a South American country mired in unrest, hunger, and despair. It wasn’t always this way. I have fond childhood memories of being surrounded by close friends and loved ones in the bustling capital city of Caracas. Not too long ago, Venezuela was the most prosperous country in South America.

But eventually, my world was turned upside down. As socialism began to take hold, work became scarcer. Violence became the norm. And then, I feared for my own safety and that of my immediate family. As difficult as it was to imagine leaving everything and everyone behind, we knew it was time to go. Fortunately, I have recently been granted asylum to live in the U.S until things improve in Venezuela.

My story is not unique. Like me, there are millions of immigrants who have found their way to the U.S. in search of liberty, freedom, economic opportunity, and prosperity. It’s a story that repeats itself generation after generation.

Here in Virginia, the American Immigration Council estimates that 1 in 8 residents in the commonwealth are immigrants — or about 12% of the state’s population. Besides contributing to the growth of our state and country, immigrants in Virginia are paying an estimated $8.7 billion in federal taxes and $3.2 billion in state and local taxes.

Other studies have found that immigrants are starting businesses at a faster rate than native-born Americans. The New American Economy meanwhile found that a staggering 44% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or by the children of immigrants.

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