Our Stories

Teresa DeLeon, immigrant from the Philippines and member of SEIU 1199NW

Teresa, SEIU Member

When my father first arrived in the U.S., he slept on his cousin’s couch in a one-bedroom apartment. At night, he would sneak into the bathroom to cry because he missed his family. Later, my mother and younger sisters joined him, but as a toddler, I was left with my Lola (grandmother) in the Philippines.

Sadness and longing are familiar feelings for me. As a child, I didn’t know my father. After I reunited with my family in the U.S. at the age of 13, I rarely saw him because he worked as a mechanic for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. I can count only a couple times when he stayed home sick. No matter what, he always worked, saving every penny to provide for his family, never allowing himself frivolous things. The money my father earned was not only for our immediate family, but he also helped our relatives in the Philippines, as well as friends and relatives that newly immigrated to the U.S.

America is the epitome of dreams. Because of my father’s sacrifices, I have a wonderful life. I have my own home and a good job as a hospital registrar, checking in people who come in for emergencies. When immigrant patients arrive to Admitting, I recognize in them that inner strength and resilience that one learns as an outsider having to adapt in this country.

I notice how these patients are naturally drawn to my desk over my coworkers’ desks. Although I may not speak their language, they hear my accent and perhaps sense that I will better understand their needs. They are comforted by a feeling of a shared experience.

I try to be welcoming and treat immigrants with compassion. Like my family, they should have the opportunity to fulfill their American dreams. When I hear stories of children going to school and worrying whether they will find their parents when they get home, I am reminded of my own experiences of separation and longing. Our immigration system shouldn’t be this way.

I am a proud immigrant woman. The contributions I make to America and opportunities I’ve received  pave the way for my daughter and future generations.