Is the American dream still alive for new immigrants?

Credit Cards (Photo from Flickr by frankieleon)
(Photo from Flickr by frankieleon)

The voice at the other end of the line was typically American. Polite, yet to the point.

“You don’t qualify,” he said.

I was asking for a personal loan of $6000. I had just purchased two airline tickets to fly out to the UK, to visit my mother and my British boyfriend. It was our first big overseas trip since we had claimed political asylum in the U.S. in 2012. My credit card was almost maxed out.

“Why don’t I qualify?” I asked, insisting my credit rating was good. I had no bad debt or poor credit history. I did not even, for god-sakes own a house, having been denied, over and over, a housing mortgage on the basis that my work history in the U.S. had been too brief, and inconsistent.

There was no way I could explain to the “lender” at the other end of the telephone line, that I had applied for over a thousand jobs in the U.S. (no exaggeration), since being granted permission to work in 2013. Nobody had shown the vaguest interest in hiring me as a journalist, despite my 25-year experience as a print and television journalist in Sri Lanka. Perhaps that was the deal-breaker. Where the heck was Sri Lanka anyway? To most Americans I “looked” Indian.

The American on the other end of the telephone line was patient.

“You were late by 30 days, to make payment on your Macy’s card,” he replied. “And while your current bill is at zero, nevertheless it affected your credit, which takes you down to 602.”

“But only yesterday an online credit check showed me my credit stood at 648,” I protested, indignantly.  “And I did pay my Macy’s card in full,” I added, defensively. “I just forgot the deadline by which to pay.”

“I realize that,” he replied, “however it did reflect on your credit so I am sorry but we have to turn you down.”

As I struggled to stitch together our tattered lives in a country that was completely alien to me and my two sons, I encountered blow after blow.

I thanked him, politely, and put the phone down. It was just one more blow, a punch in the guts, among a string of many others. Fuck Macy’s. And I had just shopped there again. Last week. I swallowed. Vowing to myself that I would not step foot in the place for another decade. I then remembered my Nordstrom card. Fuck.

As I struggled to stitch together our tattered lives in a country that was completely alien to me and my two sons, I encountered blow after blow, feeling, many times, physically ill. I have wanted to puke, the physical feeling so vivid, I could smell vomit, as I fought… literally, to “make it” in a country where — I had long since realized — “the American Dream” was dead. It had died a silent death, four decades ago. Just laid down, and said goodbye. Forever.

Nobody will tell you this when you arrive in the U.S. Particularly not my fellow Sri Lankans who have lived in this country for decades. This is probably typical of my fellow countrymen and women, who are known to pretend the reverse of reality.

None of the Sri Lankans I initially met when I arrived in Seattle ever told me how difficult it can be. They could have familiarized me with the whole problem of immigrant professionals like myself who would need to acquire new U.S. certification in order to advance in the American job market.

It took me a good six months, and a ton of utterly useless job applications, before I figured this one out for myself.

So for months, while I grappled with waves of homesickness, I simultaneously, struggled to find work in order to survive in a country where every breath you take costs you cold hard cash.

This is why I totally and completely get why a delusional moron like Donald Trump has come this far.

Having myself covered presidential election after presidential election in Sri Lanka, where the candidates were almost always moronic and delusional to say the least, I can spot a moron in my sleep! And Trump, has raised the bar in this respect.

I didn’t ever expect to be witness to a spectacle such as this, in the land where, as I was told since childhood, dreams are born. The ‘Land of the Free’ where, I thought, equality and human decency reign supreme. The latter does exist, (Trump being the exception), it’s the former, that is missing in large doses.

Thousands of Americans are as fed-up as I am. This too took me a while to figure out — that like me, Americans were battering a hard brick wall in order to survive. It was only when I went back to school, made friends and integrated with working class Americans, that I heard their stories and it dawned on me: I am not the only one around with a story to tell. Mine is just a little bit more colorful.

And unlike me, nearly a third of Americans have a credit score lower than 601 — the distinction between bad and fair credit — according to credit bureau Experian.

While Experian estimates 30 percent of Americans have poor or bad credit, plenty of people have no credit at all, which has similar disadvantages to having low scores.

I am on the threshold to joining this mass of people. My score is teetering just a point higher, only because I have not lived long enough in this country to amass a ton of debt…yet. I certainly am well on my way.

Because debt, in America, is survival. This is the price you pay in the land of the free.

1 Comment

  1. Welcome to America . Keep your focus on the positive side and try hard, I bet you will at least take a small bit of the American Dream.

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