Tennille’s Immigration Story: Young love and sacrifices

No matter what side of the immigration and citizen debate one gravitates to, the inability of our nation’s leaders to find consensus has been distressing to watch. During one of our team meetings, we found ourselves sharing our own stories of what the word immigration means to us. We thought we’d share a little more about our team members over the course of time.

Tennille

Having been raised closer to the maternal side of my family who were born here in the US, I didn’t have any real experience with immigration affecting my life. That is, until the first time I fell in love. I was 18 years old and completely in love with a man from Trinidad; I had no idea what this meant. This man went to high school in New York City, just like I did. He was a star basketball player and had taken his high school team to the state finals. He was so talented that he could look at anything and draw it. So why wasn’t he in college? I just could not comprehend. As the old adage says “To understand the present, one must learn from the past”, so with that being said let me go back in time.

One day before Nyron Isaac turned 16 his parents sent him to live in the US with his older brothers. He was granted a medical visa for an eye defect. This specific type of visa was only good for a 3-month trip to the US. At the end of the 3 months, his parents informed him that this trip would in fact be a permanent one. Since he was a minor and it is mandatory for children to be in school, Nyron’s older brother was able to enroll him in high school where he would eventually become an All-Star athlete and artist.

With so many talents on and off the court, numerous colleges began to recruit him. Unfortunately, having overstayed his visa he wouldn’t be allowed to continue his illustrious career. Having no social security number or any idea of how to obtain one, Nyron called his parents back in Trinidad. At this point, all he felt was a sense of hopelessness and defeat. How could he better himself and accomplish his dreams when he was considered “illegal”? His parents told him staying in the US would provide better options for him than returning back to Trinidad. They thought life in the “Land of the free and home of the brave” would be easier. Little did they know without the proper paperwork it would be anything but easy. In fact, not only was he unable to get into college, he was unable to legally work, this meant he was unable to get paid a fair wage. After accepting numerous jobs “off the books” for below minimum wage he took to the streets to find income as many people in his situation often do. He began to sell drugs to survive.

Now the year is 2000 and I am pregnant with our first born. Nyron wanted out of the street life he wanted to provide a stable home for our soon to be born son. He accepted yet another under paying job and stopped selling drugs. It was hard, even with me working we just weren’t making enough money. Given our choices he encouraged me to go back to school. He would watch our child so that I could go to college since he couldn’t.

While doing some research we found out that since I was a natural born citizen we could apply for a green card for him through marriage. At this time, we couldn’t afford to both be in school, so I continued my education while he worked and took care of our son.

Fast forward to the present, although we are no longer married, I am extremely proud of him and grateful for his sacrifice. After years of hard work, he now owns his own barbershop in NYC and does freelance graphic arts on the side.

[Picture above: Nyron, Tennille, and their son.]