Working for the immigrant’s dream: the hard job of Irma Chajecki

By Guillermo Rojas y Victoria Lis Marino | Tulsa, OK

Irma Chajecki is from Colombia, but chose to become an American, decades ago. In 1979 she immigrated to Tulsa, where she has dedicated her life to the “immigration cause,” the art of pursuing the dream of an immigrant from having no citizenship to full integration in society.

Through her work at Catholic Charities Irma learned the needs and deeds of Tulsa’s immigrants and gained joy in each of her quests.

“The year I started working with them was the one with most blessings in my life because I was able to get acquainted with the real people out there, true immigrants, with desires and needs,” said Irma, who worked for 30 years in the immigration office of this local organization.

“The most satisfying memory I have was of the amnesty of 1986,” she recalled. “We helped a lot of people who wanted to become Americans to achieve their dreams. I had to travel to different little towns in Oklahoma and was so happy to be helping so many. It was wonderful.”

Sadly 1986 is a lost memory in times of Donald Trump, and amnesty would be a proper solution that nobody is willing to accept. That is Irma’s torment.
“It hurts to realize that immigrants are not being treated as human beings, they are not seen as people with different values, they just do not fit, and there is nothing I can do because there are no opportunities of doing anything at all,” she said.

Irma feels stuck today, and the only work she can do is offering a shoulder for those in need.

“The community is in despair,” she lamented. “They are afraid because they don’t know what can happen tomorrow, who might help their children if they are not there. People are worried, like when you are expecting a tornado and do not know if it will pass right over you or beside you.”

Irma is acquainted with the immigration system and that is the actual source of her ailing. The United States used to offer solutions for those who helped the country grow, but today that is not the case.

“I went to Oklahoma City every month to see the deportation judges and saw a lot of employers arrive with their employees and telling the judges, ‘They are my best employees and are here to become legal.’ Unfortunately that is illegal today, nobody recognizes the work of immigrants in our society.”

“It is so unfair not to give value to the work these people do in our country,” she added.

Without amnesty there is no solution, with no laws, there is no dream. “The DACA kids don’t know if they won’t be able to go to work tomorrow, to school, to live their lives as they used to,” said Irma, moved by emotion.

According to Irma a community that is not allowed to work stops being a community, which is why she tells those in despair: “Don’t loose your faith, trust God, because what can’t be done through the immigration system can be achieved by God. Educate your children because education is the only weapon they can count on.” (La Semana)