In The Classroom / Social Justice

Refugees Remind Us ‘Surrendering is Not an Option’

Marisol Bucio is a current Adler University student pursuing a master’s degree in clinical mental health. She works with refugees in Chicago, and was selected this past spring for the NBCC Minority Fellowship Program led by the National Board for Certified Counselors. Bucio will receive funding and training to facilitate her education and service to underserved minority populations.

I am Marisol Bucio — the proud daughter of two dedicated, hardworking immigrants.

Despite the stigma surrounding immigrants, I am not embarrassed, nor ashamed to disclose my parents’ roots. Their story and cultural identities have defined me, inspiring the person I am today.

My parents have taught me to fight for my dreams with a key consideration in mind: We must not pursue our own success while compromising that of those who are less fortunate along the way. As Cesar Chavez once said, “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes, and for our own.”

These are not just words I know. They are words I live by. I currently work with refugees from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, India, Bangladesh, and many other countries. These individuals are fleeing community violence, political persecution, death threats and poverty. They come to the United States in search of the American Dream. They escape to start a life free from fear, distress and the looming question of who will die next in their communities.

As a family reunification specialist in the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Refugee and Resettlement, I reconnect people with their family members and friends here in the states. But my title fails to communicate the full support I provide for refugees. I am their tutor, mentor, fighter, adviser and listener. Most importantly, I am their voice.

Each day as a family reunification specialist is different from the last. Participants live in a fully supervised, residential group home. I spend some days on necessary administrative work — making appointments for participants and their sponsors, for instance — and others gathering documents to support their cases. I spend days speaking to family members, urging them to sponsor those in our care. (Refusing to sponsor a loved one because of the misconception that we represent immigration is not uncommon, as families often fear deportation). Sometimes, I am in the milieu with participants where I may help them prep meals, facilitate various group sessions and offer a phone so they can call their family. Other times, I meet individually with participants to shake them of their sadness.

But every day, the group home needs more volunteers, workers and donations. Its residents look forward to new activities and are grateful for each and every person willing to teach them something new. My aspiration is to help each participant find his or her voice. I want to continue promoting social justice and advocating for the underserved, and underprivileged.

Although it has so far been no easy feat, I am humbled and proud to say that each person I have encountered has taught me something. Participants often thank me for my time and service, but I am the one who is thankful. Sure, I appreciate that participants have promoted my personal and professional growth. But primarily, I am grateful they have reaffirmed for me that surrendering is not an option.

If you are interested in fighting for social justice, please join me. This worthy, deserving population needs support and advocates. Our ambitions must, of course, include ourselves. But they should also involve those in need.