Immigration in America is a touchy subject. No one likes to mention the word immigration since it is somewhere up there with the word gun (more on that another time).

I am not afraid to say the word immigration because my father is an immigrant. When I hear the word immigration my mind at once thinks of the American dream. Remember that concept? It is the remarkable and unique idea of America as the land of opportunity (which it still is) and all its potential. We need to face facts:  nothing and no one is perfect in our country. But amidst all our country’s imperfections there are countless examples of success, triumph, and perseverance which truly represent America. We need to hear more about these stories.

Immigrants have long come to these shores with hopes and dreams and the desire to work hard to build a life. Many still do come to this country with the hope of creating something successful for themselves and their families. We should never forget that it is possible to come to America with nothing in your pocket and to earn something greater than you ever imagined. But unfortunately, the only stories of immigration we seem to hear about in the news are those of immigration gone bad because, as the mainstream media report, America is heartless — no one has a chance at achieving his dreams in this country anymore because of conservatives, and the only way to enter America is illegally.

Here is a brief story for you and one that speaks to just the opposite.

I know what the American dream looks like first-hand because I am a product of this dream. As a daughter of an immigrant, I know what success and hard work look like. My father is the American dream.

My father came to this country from Italy as a teen-ager with his family. His ambition fed his desire to succeed, and he did so on his own, working his way up the economic ladder through numerous jobs. He started at a factory, and then worked a full-time job while also going to college full time. After school he worked his way into leadership positions in business, finally landing in technology.

During this process he became a proud American citizen. While it was daunting, for him it was an achievement, and it created a sense of pride that is now a part of me.

Being an American citizen is a privilege and an honor. That was instilled in me early on. In knowing this, we must recognize that processes must exist for a non-native to become a citizen. As a first-generation daughter and proud American I believe in the opportunities afforded us by our great nation and recognize why so many want to come here. But we must also respect the laws of our country and see that those who truly want to become Americans do so in the correct way, just as those who came before us have.

Being an immigrant in America is not about asking, “What’s in it for me?” It is about striving and fighting for your dream, whatever that may be, because it is possible. America is the land of opportunity, but also a land of laws — and that is something we must not lose sight of either. For those not born here, becoming an American citizen is a privilege, not a right — and something that deserves more respect.

Lauren E. Forcucci is an educator, writer, and proud American. She is the daughter of an immigrant, the granddaughter of a veteran, and a friend and supporter of active-duty military, veterans, and police.  She’s also a proud Whiskey Patriot.