America’s story is the story of immigration. Our nation has always been replenished and revitalized by immigrants in search of freedom and opportunity.

A recent essay by a college president pointed out that all of us — except for descendants of indigenous people — are immigrants or from an immigrant family. Her own experience, she wrote, was of growing up in a big city ethnic neighborhood surrounded by the language, food and traditions of her European immigrant grandparents.

Her experience is not unlike what many have had here in Chicago, growing up in a Polish neighborhood, and hearing the language in stores, schools, businesses and churches.

Joyce Helens is president of the St. Cloud Technical & Community College and she grew up in Philadelphia, listening to Polish and Lithuanian in her immigrant grandparents’ homes. She recalls that as a child, she could pass through neighborhoods and notice the changes in languages and smells of cooking foods that transitioned from Polish to Lithuanian to Italian, then Irish and then German.

She writes that the first generation born in America — her parents’ generation — forged the path for her generation and those following to move out of the neighborboods and assimilate with mainstream American society.

She adds that all of us should take time to understand the experiences — the hardships and the joys — of new immigrants who have come here in search of opportunity and freedom; just as immigrant families have always done.

An experienced Chicago immigration attorney can help you and your family pursue resident status or citizenship.