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The Immigrant Voice

Author: Linh Tran-Layton

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We all love compelling stories and the people who tell them. What we love even more is hearing the story evolve with every spoken word. The Immigrant Voice podcast is hosted by U.S. immigration attorney Linh Tran-Layton who is also an immigrant. She delves into the rich and unique stories of people from all over the world who immigrated to the United States. You'll hear about their immigration journeys, hardships, accomplishments, and their hopes and dreams among other topics. These stories will make you feel a range of emotions, but our hope is that you will leave feeling inspired as their voices pave a way into your own narrative.
15 Episodes
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Rick left Vietnam at 12 years old with his sister on a small fishing boat crammed with other people well beyond its maximum capacity. The danger he and his sister were facing was enough for his mother to put them on this boat without her in hopes that they would find safety elsewhere.  Not knowing where he would and his sister would end up, imminent danger awaited at sea as he sailed further and further away from his home.  His voyage would become a daunting tale of survival. Through his harrowing experience where he saw and experienced things no one should, especially as a child, Rick saw liberty. He had an altruistic vision to become a contributor to society and a pillar in the American workforce.  Rick’s bravery and ability to see the positive in his survival story shows the determination of what it means to be an immigrant in America. Rick was given no other option but to survive and found that taking risks brought him to where he is today.
Born and raised in the U.S., Lavinia would question her culture and what it means to be a second-generation immigrant.  She clashed with the feeling that she was too Tongan for America and too American for Tonga. Her family holds on tight to their Tongan culture and ties, which meant growing up she was taught that women have a box to fit in.  Limited by her mother’s constraints on the ideal female role led Lavinia to question her identity as well as question who and what she was supposed to be. Not only did she struggle with figuring out her identity, but she also experienced racism from her peers leading her to become an advocate for people of color.After multiple life setbacks, she decided to pursue higher education, and it would lead to prestigious opportunities showing that women can achieve things that were seen as unconventional in the eyes of her parents.Lavinia’s episode is filled with empowerment, interconnection, and disparities that are navigated through a collective and beautiful culture.
Gayana came to the states at 9 years old on an F-1 student visa to live with her grandmother. Her parents stayed in Russia where they had all immigrated after an earthquake in Armenia devasted their home. Prior to living in Armenia, she and her family lived in Azerbaijan but had to flee the violent war that was raging.  As a young girl, she worked hard to find her place in America. She started fourth grade toward the end of it not knowing any English, but her determination pushed her to learn the language and by the time she started fifth grade, which was only a few months later, she was fluent.She had to return to Russia after she graduated high school for a short period of time to eventually get her green card. She hadn’t been there since she first left, and she was able to experience how vastly different the countries were. Even though she spoke Russian, not much else was familiar anymore, and she was far away from where she felt her home really was. She later returned to the U.S. along with the rest of her immediate family, and with the same determination she had as a young child she has continued to work hard to create a good life for herself and her family. 
Hilde lost everything within 48 hours. It was like the American movies she saw on television as a kid, playing out in real life with plot twists waiting around every corner.Hilde is German and Venezuelan, her mother German, and her father, Venezuelan. She grew up in a German colony in Venezuela with her parents and two little sisters. She seemed to have everything, a family maid, a personal chauffeur, and a father who had a prestigious career, but one day everything seemed to change instantly. Her family was given 48 hours to flee their home country because they were facing imminent danger with the Venezuelan government. She remembers arriving in the U.S. for the first time and seeing the American flag welcoming her family, but it wasn’t under the circumstances she was hoping for.Hilde is a domestic violence survivor, a mother, and an advocate for victims of crime. She shares her journey of pain and resilience. In navigating a world where she felt like she lost everything at times, she still found the strength and courage to persevere. 
Illens immigrated from Haiti to the states more than 34 years ago with his wife and a common pursuit to pursue their education. Now, years later, he is a father, an entrepreneur, and an author. Illens coaches and trains small business owners, which he is deeply passionate about as he knows all too well how lonely the road can be for entrepreneurs. In this episode, he also talks about how to be welcomed by the Haitian people if you travel there and the love he has for his culture, and of course the food. Even though moving to the U.S. was a big change for him, especially to Utah when there were very few Haitians, he kept his outlook positive and realized he couldn’t live a happy life if he were wishing he was living in Haiti while living in the U.S.  He chose to direct his efforts to create a positive impact in his community, and continues to do so in the work he does. 
Jonny and Miranda met in 2016 during a vacation to New Orleans. He was visiting from England, and Miranda was on a girls trip.  Realizing something special was forming, they stayed in touch when they went their separate ways after the trip, but soon enough, their relationship turned into more. Although they lived an ocean apart, they were fortunate enough to see each other but of course, not as often as they would have liked to, and they had to have the conversation of who would move where for the relationship to progress.  In this episode, they share their experiences of the anticipation and anxiousness they felt going through the fiancé visa process, but for Jonny and Miranda, the emotional roller coaster of the process was worth it.   
This episode is an interview with Selena, who is not an immigrant herself, but has experienced the ups and downs of the immigration process, nonetheless.  Growing up, she had the constant reminder that her parents did not have legal status. They had entered the U.S. undocumented, which caused fear and uncertainty within her family’s structure because of the constant fear of deportation. Selena was also confronted by the hardships that many children who have immigrant parents face where their parents don’t speak English or their parents did not have the opportunity to get an education.  However, out of these hardships, she learned valuable life lessons.  As she began finding her place in this world, her journey to find her purpose and give back becomes her motivation in life, and she continues to see the positive in a sometimes dim world.Today, Selena is a proud first-generation college graduate who lives in the Salt Lake City area and shares her and her family’s story of endurance.
Cesar moved to Utah in 2015 from New York City, a city that gave him grit and determination, which would serve him well. He moved to the United States with his family when he was four years old from the Dominican Republic.  As Cesar grew up and became an avid baseball player, he began to question his parents about why he couldn’t do some of the things his teammates got to do. He later came to understand what not having legal status would mean for him and his future.  However, he wasn't fearful and didn’t see it as a hindrance but rather an impetus for his determination to succeed.     
On January 30, 2020, the Utah Supreme Court enacted a rule that would allow undocumented immigrants to practice law in Utah.  When Heidi started law school, the bar rules did not allow for that.  She is one of the two Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) recipients who petitioned the court for this change, making Utah a part of 10 other states that allow undocumented immigrants to practice law. Heidi is from Oaxaca, Mexico, and moved to the states in 1992 with her family.  Although she would soon understand what it meant to be undocumented in the states, she did not let her undocumented status stop her from pursuing her education and eventually a law degree. DACA has had a tumultuous history, and the future of the program is still unpredictable, leaving many like Heidi to become overwhelmed by fear and anxiety of what may come. However, despite the uncertainty and obstacles, she has continued to pursue her dreams. Her courageous fight to push for a change in the Utah State Bar rules has paved a path and will have a lasting impact on undocumented immigrants who choose to pursue a legal career in Utah. 
As a successful entrepreneur, Hourt has embraced his independence without giving up his culture’s traditional family values. His story is a tale of the true American Dream. Hourt was born in a refugee camp on the border of Thailand and Cambodia after his parents fled the brutality of the Khmer Rouge. Once his family was sponsored by the Lutheran church to bring them to the United States, they moved into low-income housing in the Washington D.C. area. Eventually, his parents saved enough money to open several businesses, which eventually sparked his interest in also pursuing his own entrepreneurial journey. He thrives in his love for technology, and as Hourt continues on his entrepreneurial journey, he hopes that it will help to leave a lasting legacy for his family.   
Tracey is from Trinidad and Tobago, a dual-island country lined in the Caribbean.  With grandparents from Lebanon on one side and great-great-grandparents from East India on the other, Tracey knows all too well what a melting pot of cultures looks like.  Her husband’s pursuit of his dream to be able to become a U.S trained surgeon led them to moving to San Antonio, Texas in 2010. Tracey has her own family now and she can’t help but compare her childhood to her daughter’s as the differences between cultures surfaces.  Her interview will remind all of us that countries and cultures alike have values and teachings we can incorporate into our own lives, creating a space for celebrating each other as one.  
Simón is a successful corporate attorney in Utah, and an immigrant from El Salvador. A story of great turmoil and the unknown as his family left their war-torn country, Simón found ways to brave the obstacles that stood in his and his family’s journey to the U.S.  Although, his initial impression of the U.S. as a young child was not all that he had hoped it would be (his family left El Salvador to escape crime, drugs, and violence and moved into a neighborhood in California to find the same issues stemming in its communities), he nevertheless was lucky enough to have met people who were willing to mentor him, and found the opportunities in the U.S. that would define his path to success. His views of the U.S. have obviously changed, and he believes that it’s a country where seemingly impossible dreams can actually become a reality. You’ll also hear about the intense sacrifices made by his parents and the love he has for them. His desire to prosper in a new and ever-changing world so different from where he came from defines what he now knows about freedom.
Chau’s parents immigrated to the United States from Vietnam as refugees with their four young children. Chau was later born in a refugee camp in Indonesia, and she and her family made their way to the United States when she was still a baby.  Although her parents had their ideas of what success meant for their children, Chau did not follow that path.  Instead, she's pursued her passion as a stand-up comic, became a big sister with the Big Brother Big Sister program, and now works for a non-profit in Texas that helps children across the state.  Not only did she pave her own way while breaking the typical Asian stereotype, but Chau has also created her own happiness and community where she can thrive and grow in ways that may have been cut short if her parents did not instill the lesson of perseverance within her. 
On June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage became legal across the United States. For Leon, this was a pivotal moment, and it would mean he would be able to finally marry the love of his life, Bart, whom he had been with for many years.  Leon is an immigrant from Australia and decided as a young adult he would go on a two-year mission for his church, which brought him to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he served the mission. He fell in love with Utah, and when he returned to Australia after his mission, he applied for a student visa and returned to Salt Lake City to attend college. He later met his husband, and because they were not able to legally marry for many years, it meant that they were not able to apply for the same immigration benefits as a married man and woman were be able to. You will hear about Leon’s immigration journey, and the roller coaster of emotions he went through. He is still a proud Australian, but he’s also found his home here in the United States with his love. 
Host and creator for the podcast, Linh Tran-Layton, shares what inspired her to create it. 
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