Washington, DC – Below is a column by Maribel Hastings and David Torres from America’s Voice en Español translated to English from Spanish. It ran in several Spanish-language media outlets earlier this week:
Lixania Rodas, Venezuelan, the granddaughter of Spanish migrants, immigrated herself out of necessity. She left behind the Venezuela that her grandfather made home and which he called the best country in the world, the same one that Lixiana says she doesn’t want to return to “ever again.”
Now Lixania is an asylee in the United States, although some bureaucratic snafus have delayed the renewal of her work permit, at this time. Her story is personal and, at the same time, similar to others who, like her, cross nations, jungles, deserts, rivers, and seas to arrive at the promised land, the United States, in search of safety, work, and a better future.
Hers is, literally, a story that shows the real human face of migration, that which is repeated a million and one times in the lives of humans who are displaced around the world fleeing persecution, the lack of opportunities, poverty, hunger, and a never-ending list of circumstances that test the human condition at any given time.
This weekend, Lixania will be one of the speakers at an event by the Ignatian Solidarity Network in Washington, D.C., where she hopes to continue sharing her story, she says, so that what has caused so many Venezuelans to leave their country and families is understood, and to thank the nation that has received them, despite the fact that they still face obstacles.
Lixania is one of the more than 7.7 million people of Venezuelan origin who are currently displaced around the world, searching for a better place to live, according to data from the Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Platform, together with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Lixania’s journey began in 2019. In her country she was a business woman and activist, as she describes herself, advocating for freedom. Due to this activism, on September 17, 2019, she left her country urgently with one of her children. They arrived in Mexico by way of Colombia on September 19 and requested asylum at the Nogales border checkpoint, where they received support from the Kino Border Initiative, to which she says, “I can never repay them for the support they gave us, and not only us, but all the migrants who arrive there.” The “Remain In Mexico” policy was applied to them and then, in the midst of the pandemic, they could not work even though they had work permits.
The follow-up appointments for their asylum request took them from Nogales to El Paso-Ciudad Juárez. “We traveled more than 16 hours by bus. We had to arrive at the bridge entry point at 3 am, and there they detained us for three or four days. It was an incredible torture,” she narrates.
Months passed and on April 19, 2021 they were transported to New York, where her other son lives and has worked for eight years. There they received their renewed work permits. For health reasons, Lixania moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. Her asylum application was approved in April 2022. She was working, but her work permit expired in August of this year and has not been renewed yet due to bureaucratic delays.
“Now I am completely unemployed. I’m like the people who just arrived here for the first time, with nothing. The torture has not stopped. Migration has not stopped,” she indicates.
Lixania has worked and paid taxes this entire time.
This experience leads her to conclude what those who advocate for immigration reform have been demanding for decades: if there are people who want to work, who are already paying taxes and supporting the economy in various ways, “why not legalize them?” she asks.
“I think there should have been a little more urgency to giving legalization to the people,” Lixania opines, and adds that she wants to continue sharing her migration experience because maybe she can contribute, in her own small way, to the U.S. society’s understanding of why people are seeking refuge here.
“I thank the United States from the bottom of my heart, for all that I have achieved because at least I have my political asylum—that is the major achievement, because I know that I am protected and I don’t have to return to my country that is beautiful, but to which I never want to return,” she affirms.
“And it’s all because Venezuela has become a country not that you want to leave, but that you have to leave,” she adds.
“Migrating is difficult; you find yourself in situations you don’t want to live in; it’s not what you expected, and it’s not what you have fought for your entire life,” she says.
“I hope, as my grandfather says, to be in the best country. And I think that in this country I have the freedom and security that I didn’t feel in my own,” she concludes.
Indeed, Lixania’s words clearly summarize what millions of migrants are promising to accomplish in a nation that they have decided to call home, despite the rhetoric of rejection and discrimination that dominates the issues of migration and politics these days.
To read the Spanish version of this column click here.