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EFE News Service

Puerto Rican Judge Celebrates 20 Years Serving Immigrants

By Keyla Medina-Rosa

January 31, 2004
Copyright ©2004 EFE News Service. All rights reserved.

Miami, Jan 30 (EFE).-U.S. Immigration Judge Lilliana Torreh-Bayouth, a native of Puerto Rico who has for two decades worked in the new-arrival hotspot of South Florida, says she seeks to help legal immigrants get on the path to adapting to and enriching the culture of the land receiving them.

As an immigration judge here, she is familiar with the situation in this mecca of Hispanic immigrants she calls "a cultural kaleidoscope," not just of Cubans but of countless other groups that are "trying to make it."

"I was just another immigrant in this community. Of course, I came with my U.S. citizenship, which made it very easy and, of course, with an educational level that helped me get ahead easily here in Miami, and unfortunately that's not the process that others undergo," Torreh-Bayouth told EFE.

Raised with a sense of the importance of public service and community responsibility, Torreh-Bayouth has worked with various community-support and animal-rights groups in the 20 years she has devoted to this city.

The key to becoming integrated into an environment of different people and traditions is "putting down roots... You have to believe that you are here to stay and that this is your city. The community doesn't think of you as part of the community until you think of the community as yours."

To change the situation and the mindset, Torreh-Bayouth says "we have to pass an immigration law that is coherent, that makes sense, that solves these problems without generating more interest in coming here illegally. That's striking a balance," she said.

Torreh-Bayouth says immigrants should have "passion" and "take pride in who we are, in our businesses and our activities."

Her own passion and her efforts to improve the lot of Puerto Ricans in south Florida earned her an award from a group called Puerto Ricans Making a Difference.

"I am very honored to be invited to speak on what we can do to improve the situation of Puerto Ricans in terms of their ability to participate in the community's political processes and to improve their economic and social positions," she said.

"We must engage in activities that help Puerto Ricans take pride in who they are and feel they are supported, and in activities that let the rest of the community know that we are here to contribute and not to take away," she said.

Besides, she said, "we have to be aware of what we have to contribute to this community and use all those positive things we have ... to move us foward."

She said it is important for immigrants to "realize that they are here and that they have to take an interest in their city" so as to live in harmony with the entire community.

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