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.
Episode 16 - Aida (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
The Bosnian War took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. Aida was a young girl living there with her parents and sister during that time. She vividly remembers them hiding in their basement while hearing bombs exploding outside and having to stand in long lines for food that was rationed. This became their way of life until they were able to escape. They fled to Norway as refugees, but eventually, they were allowed to resettle in the U.S. as refugees.
They landed in New York City when Aida was a teenager, where they lived in Queens for a short time, and eventually, they made their way to Salt Lake City, Utah. Aida seized the educational opportunities available to her and eventually went to law school and continues to practice law today. Early in her legal career, she went back to Bosnia to prosecute the war criminals from the Bosnian War.
Hear her story about what they went through during the war, the promise she made to her parents if they moved to the U.S., and how although the scars from war are etched in her mind, it did not affect her desire to find success and pursue her dreams in America. She’s had an impressive legal career and has served in other capacities working with underserved communities.
Episode 15 - Zubair (Afghanistan)
Zubair immigrated from Afghanistan to the U.S. only three years ago with his wife and six kids. After a childhood ravaged by war, memories from carnage and fear still follow him today.
With constant threats of suicide bombings, a corrupt system, and civil unrest from the Taliban, Zubair would watch his country unravel.
Although there were many obstacles, that didn’t stop Zubair from succeeding. He studied law while he lived in Pakistan to become a lawyer. He returned to Afghanistan and practiced international law with prominent organizations that supported human rights and rights of refugees in Afghanistan.
He decided to come to the U.S. under the Special Immigrant Visa program in search of security and freedom for his family because those things always seemed out of grasp. This meant he had to make immense sacrifices, such as giving up his career and connections and leaving everything he knew behind to come to the U.S.
This interview was recorded a few months ago, so it doesn’t touch on what has recently happened, but his story will shed light on the hardships that the Afghans have gone through for so long. I am heartbroken seeing all the tragedies that have taken place in Afghanistan and asking why and how the situation deteriorated so rapidly, creating this humanitarian crisis. I am grateful I had the opportunity to meet Zubair to learn more about the Afghans and to be able to share his story with others. His story is one of the millions, and I hope people will resonate with it and realize that most of us want the same fundamental things, freedom and security.
For those who want to get involved or donate, here are some resources:
https://miles4migrants.org/ - Miles4Migrants uses donated frequent flyer miles, credit card points, and cash to help people impacted by war, persecution, or disaster reunite with loved ones and start new beginnings in safe homes
Episode 14 - Rick (Vietnam)
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.
Episode 13 - Lavinia (Tonga)
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.
Episode 12 - Gayana (Armenia)
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.
Episode 11 - Hilde (Venezuela)
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.
Linh has done a great job interviewing different experiences of migrating to the US! It’s intriguing and I definitely recommend listening!