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Immigrants share what the meaning of the American dream is for them Unsplash.com/Joey Csunyo

It's National Immigrants Day and while for more than 50 million of them, this is a weekend like the others, a handful of immigrants talked to The Latin Times about the meaning of the so-called American dream.

According to the United Nations, the U.S. is the nation that has welcomed more immigrants. At 50.6 million, that means one-fifth of the U.S. population comes from other countries, the Pew Research Center adds.

Some of them, from Washington state to Florida, shared how their new country has received them and whether the phrase 'American dream' still has some meaning to them.

"It was hard at the beginning"

Francisco Ramírez, 64, has worked for more than 30 years as an ironworker forging handicrafts in metro Atlanta.

Coming from Mexico in his early 20s, Ramírez says the first years in Georgia were hard for him and his family.

"I didn't speak English and it was difficult to connect or establish a network because back then seldom people spoke Spanish in the city," Ramírez said.

Nonetheless, he said an Armenian entrepreneur gave him a good job and taught him to work the forge and produce iron products, customized for designers or final consumers.

"We spoke the language of work, and that's how I ended up an expert on ironworks and eventually replaced my boss as foreman in our shop," Ramírez said.

Then he and his wife were able to obtain their Green Cards and with time American citizenship.

"I believe in the American dream, which for me it means that through hard work opportunities lead you to a better life," Ramírez said. "I don't know if I would have been able to achieve that in my country, but I got it here and, for that, I always say: 'God bless America'."

"A country to grow free and with dignity"

Father Lázaro Vélez is a member of the Archdiocese of Miami as a parochial vicar of St. Timothy.

He told The Latin Times that he has always felt welcome in his adoptive country after he left Cuba.

"This country allows immigrants to grow as a person with freedom and dignity," Vélez said.

As per the concept of 'American dream," father Vélez said that while many people talk about it in material or economic terms, he has a different vision.

"The real American dream is when you are a part of a nation with absolute principles of law and values of freedom."

"I have had opportunities for work and advancement"

While Hispanics conform the largest ethnic group in the U.S., the country has received immigrants from all the nations on Earth. One of them Dijibi Faye, came from Senegal where he graduated in banking and finance. Now, in America, he recognizes his new country has permitted him to advance and move up in life.

"From the first moment I arrived in this country, I did well. I started with a menial job while I was learning English, and now, after two decades, I am working in my profession in a bank in the compliance area", Faye said.

"My case is a little different because I was not very interested in coming to the United States, but to Canada. But I was denied the visa for Canada and I applied for the visa lottery in the United States and I won. I believe that even though I have not achieved the American dream yet, I see that it is possible and I am still looking for it. My dream is to be successful enough economically and be able to help my people in Senegal.

"I'm happy with what I have accomplished"

For some, the U.S. is also a sanctuary nation where they can forget about the situations they lived in their country of birth.

Such is the case of Oscar Videla, who came from Argentina and is related to the dictator who ruled the South American nation with an iron fist in the 70s. For that reason, he is, he admits, a political refugee who needs not to hide in America.

For Videla, who started a business in Florida and is now retired, the American dream also means that he's not afraid in his adoptive country.

"We take advantage of opportunities"

In 2014, María Aguilar came to the U.S. from Mexico and she and her family are the owners of a little store in Auburn, Washington.

'La Bendición' (The Blessing) is a specialty produce store with lots of Mexican fare. She says that for her, achieving the American dream wasn't difficult.

"We have always liked to work. So, we've always taken advantage of opportunities we have here," she said.

She says that she opened a shop after realizing it was a good way to manage her schedule.

I'm a mother of three kids who are different ages, so having your own business gives you the possibility to manage your schedule, to keep your house in order, take care of the kids, be aware of what they're doing, all of that."

"I wanted a new experience as an immigrant"

Raúl Rojas, 72, is another entrepreneur in the state of Washington, where he has owned a Dollar Latino store for 30 years.

His case is one of those of many Mexican laborers who cross the border for work and then return to the South, but then, one day he chose to stay longer.

"I already had my home and all the commodities in Mexico. It was just that I wanted to experience being an immigrant", Rojas said.

"I just tried to pave a new path, not for the American dream, but just to conquer again because I already had a good life in Mexico. So that's what I opted to do, to work. The key is to work. Work well, don't get into any problems, and everything is on the other side. So that's what I did, work, work, work, work, and that's it."

-With collaboration from Reinaldo Escobar, Jessica Acosta and Joshua Solorzano

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