Caty Houtman

Netherlands

I came to this great country as an immigrant from another great country: The Netherlands. I came to the United States to join my (now ex-) husband whom I met as a foreign exchange student at my high school. As a 19-year old, I remember the visa-application process, which involved long waits, medical exams and numerous trips to the American embassy with its armed guards to be intimidating and scary. When I first started living here, and despite being from a western country, I remember the strange things I encountered: warehouse-size stores that were open 24 hours, drive-through banks, pharmacies and restaurants, and such strange foods as Egg McMuffin sandwiches. And again, despite being from another western country, I had to learn the habits, culture, American slang, and how to navigate American society.

Since then, I have gone to law school and become a Public Defender – in my work, I protect people’s constitutional rights against encroachment by the government and I advocate for those most marginalized in society. My son and I make a trip back to the home country every year to visit family. I try to teach him it is important to learn about what is good and bad about both countries and cultures. This country became what it is because of people from all over the world coming here and giving it their best. It is precisely because of the contribution of immigrants, and not despite them, that the United States has thrived.

This story was told by Caty Houtman

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead