‘I Have a Uniquely American Daydream of Starting a New Life Out West’

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
Photo of Shiprock, a land formation in New Mexico, by reader Jimmy Rollison for our America by Air series.

Our latest reader contributor, Mar, became an American citizen in 2013 but now has uncertainty about her future in the U.S.:

In 2001, at the age of 12, I immigrated here from Spain with my parents. My father, a veterinarian, had lost his job and was offered a position (and visa) as a researcher at the FDA after applying for an opening online. The FDA benefitted from my father’s labor in that he performed the work of a veterinarian, but because he lacked a license to practice in the U.S., he was paid less than a licensed vet.

The only difference between myself and someone who crossed the border illegally is that I was born to a family with the means of immigrating legally when faced with economic forces beyond our control.

But I believe it’s still unclear to my parents and I if it was a good decision to immigrate here. My father is getting older and will not be able to afford retiring soon. Once he is unable to work full time, my parents might have to immigrate again somewhere where the cost of living is lower. (They do hang an American flag from their porch and watch Fox News.)

As for myself, I have grown roots here and have no plan to leave in the foreseeable future. My bachelor’s degree may turn out to have been a financial mistake, and the cost of treating a chronic condition (although insured!) has kept me from saving a substantial amount of money that could have helped plan for my future better. I consider myself lucky that I am not bankrupt from medical bills like many Americans are. This way of thinking would have been foreign to me had I stayed in Europe.

I have, however, benefitted from living and studying in a diverse environment that has helped me grow immensely. This would not have happened in my homogenous town in Spain. I also benefit from better civil liberties here. A Spanish citizen is currently facing a fine for insulting the king. I just tweeted at Ivanka Trump and will tweet at her dad later when I get hangry. Also, I often have a uniquely American daydream of getting in my car and starting a new life out West. I am grateful for that possibility even if I never take advantage of it.

Whether all this is worth losing medical coverage because of a pre-existing condition once the ACA is repealed, or not being able to retire decently in the future, I don’t know yet.