From One Immigrant to Another: Words of Encouragement from Hope’s Executive Director

At Hope CommUnity Center, we proudly celebrated Immigrant Appreciation Month. Throughout June, we recognized and honored the invaluable contributions of immigrants to our community and society. We acknowledge the resilience, strength, and diversity immigrants bring, enriching our cultural fabric and driving our collective progress. Immigrants have always played a vital role in shaping the United States, and we stand in solidarity with them, advocating for their rights, empowerment, and inclusion. We believe in the power of unity and understanding, and we strive to foster an environment where every immigrant feels valued, respected, and supported. 

Here is a message from HCC’s Executive Director to all immigrants:

Here to Stay 

I remember the day I moved to the United States like yesterday, along with the uncertainty and determination embedded in my heart. As a 14-year-old teenager, I didn’t fully understand the magnitude of that moment. The ways it would open and close doors, and the transformational nature of this journey.  

I was trained by my family to get through immigration on my own upon arrival at the Miami airport and to find ways to create roots fast in my new home. We imagined the United States as the land of opportunities, and it was critical for me to succeed, get good grades, and fulfill my dreams. Nobody expected I would face so many obstacles. 

I was undocumented for 15 years of my life, and I know firsthand what millions of immigrants face simply for the lack of a nine-digit card- a social security number. Documentation should never be the reason why our humanity is not acknowledged, respected, and welcomed. Yet, the reality of millions in this country is dictated by where they were born, not who they are, and the talents they want to share with our country. 

I won’t sugarcoat what’s happening in Florida. We, as immigrants, are under siege! A horrific law was passed to undermine our humanity and silence us. The narrative of immigrants as burdens is simply not true. Immigrants in Florida have $107.3 Billion in spending power and pay $31.4 Billion in taxes. We have an innate entrepreneurial spirit. As a matter of fact, Florida benefits from 394,176 immigrant entrepreneurs collectively creating a total business income of $8.1 Billion.  

Our tenacity and courage as immigrants build our communities, edify our families, and it creates a better world for us all. Our nation was built upon generations of people who arrived at our shores by makeshift boats and planes. Others have made the difficult decision to walk through the desert for a better life. Some of us went to school, others arrived to reunite with our families, and many ran away from horrible situations in our countries of origin. At the end of the day, one simple truth remains. We are here, and this is our home. We belong here. 

I know the last few months haven’t been easy. But Hope CommUnity Center’s steadfast commitment to serving you hasn’t gone away. We will deliver world-class services to over 16,000 people annually while advocating for our collective rights.  

As immigrants, we know firsthand the meaning of sacrifice. We have left behind our cultures, languages, and families. This has made us stronger and more resilient. We are the hope for this nation. I started as a scared young and queer immigrant living in the closet. Today, I am a U.S. Citizen and married to my beautiful husband.  

You deserve happiness, and we won’t stop fighting until you can thrive in this community. We are here for you. We have your back! 

Felipe Sousa-Lazaballet