Diaspora

SPOTLIGHT ON CITIZENSHIP: Haitian native who grew up in poverty wants better life for his children – Standard Speaker

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Updated: July 31, 2022 @ 3:48 am
Willy Alexis was born in Haiti and found his way to American citizenship after moving to the Dominican Republic as a teen.

Willy Alexis was born in Haiti and found his way to American citizenship after moving to the Dominican Republic as a teen.
Willy Alexis lost both of his parents as an infant in Haiti. Fortunately, he was adopted by one of his older brothers.
At the age of 17, Alexis moved to the Dominican Republic with the help of another sibling, and he was able to attain legal status in his new home.
“I was raised by my brother, who I considered to be my father, and then another brother came through and helped me moved from Haiti to the DR,” he said. “The decision to move was made because Haiti has always suffered through instability, and we felt safer in the Dominican Republic where there are more opportunities for success.”
Not long after arriving in the Dominican Republic, Willy met a 16-year-old Dominican girl.
“Honestly, we fell in love at first sight. Even though we were really young we started making plans for the future. We knew we wanted to be together,” he said.
At age 17, she received notification that her grandfather’s request to provide immigration status for her in the U.S. was accepted, and she became a legal resident. Before she left for the U.S., she and Alexis were engaged and, at the age of 18, she started the immigration process for him.
“Before I turned 19, I was granted a fiancé visa that allowed me to enter the U.S. legally,” Alexis said. “After three months I was granted a temporary resident card for two years.”
Alexis was content renewing his legal resident status for seven years because it allowed him to stay and work in the U.S.
“I really felt no rush to become a citizen because I didn’t see the need,” he said.
He said the possibility of his immigration status changing with the Trump administration in office prompted him to act.
“I immediately made it my priority to become a citizen of the U.S.,” he said. “I really didn’t want to run the risk or live in fear that the administration could have the power to revoke or remove my resident status.”
Determined to provide more security for his family, Alexis passed the test and became a full U.S. citizen in April 2021.
He is the proud father of five children who are excelling in local schools.
Having known what living in poverty truly meant before having entered the U.S., Alexis wants a better life for his children.
“My dream is that all five will become professionals. I want them to experience all the things I didn’t have the opportunity to do,” he said. “Money was always tight so education was hard for me. Luckily my brothers stepped up, but, in all honesty, Haiti was not the best country to be raised. There just isn’t much opportunity there.”
Alexis was able to finish high school, but he did not have enough money to enroll in a university. At a very young age he had to take small jobs to earn money and contribute income to help his family survive.
“When I moved to the D.R., the situation was better than it was in Haiti. At least I was able to make a daily living that allowed me to buy food and necessities. Here in U.S., I work very hard, but I can save up money, I can buy things and I can provide for my family,” he said.
He no longer has family in Haiti.
“The brother that raised me passed away and most of my family moved to the DR. When I travel, I go to D.R., not Haiti,” he said. “I can still speak and understand Creole but my understanding and preferred language is Spanish.”
The challenges of moving from Haiti to the D.R. and finally the U.S. were significant, but Alexis continues to work hard each day in providing a stable life for his family. He is thankful for the opportunities he has received and passed on his strong work ethic to his children.
As a U.S. citizen, he is confident that he made the right choices, and he is looking forward to watching his children grow and succeed.
Lilibeth Fuentes is a marketing specialist for the Hazleton Integration Project.
SPOTLIGHT ON CITIZENSHIP is a yearlong project of the Standard-Speaker and Hazleton Integration Project to highlight some of the remarkable stories of local people who have become United States citizens over the past few years.
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