Erie, like many cities in the United States, is a melting pot for immigrants. According to the U.S. Homeland Security, over 1.1 million people obtained lawful permanent resident status across the nation in 2017. While the journey to legal status is a long and winding one, for many it’s an incredibly rewarding journey.

In this special report, Syeda Abbas talks to some about their road to American citizenship and those who helped them.

Dr. Jay Kang came to the United States in 1990 from India. According to Homeland Security, over 1.5 million people obtained lawful permanent resident status in America that year. At the time, Kang was in his early teens.

Today, Kang is a plastic surgeon at UPMC Hamot.

“Things were a lot simpler, there were also not quite as many people interested in immigrating to the United States,” Kang said.

Kang saying that he’s had a positive experience.

“People are accepting and they value hard work,” he continued.

Baher Ghosheh is a Palestinian-American. He is also a geography professor at Edinboro University. He said immigrating is a longer process now than it was before.

“Its true actually for all of the rich countries, this is something we find common in all immigration policies,” Ghosheh said. “They are becoming more selective and much more restrictive.”

Although living in the United States for 40 years, Ghosheh said that Americans are very generous and welcoming people.

“It’s much easier to integrate in America because we are a melting pot of so many different ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups.” Ghosheh said.

Both Kang and Ghosheh agreed that assimilating is made easier with the help of Americans.

Ed Grode was a national board member for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

“Erie is a tremendous place for refugees and immigrants to relocate to,” Grode said. “We have organizations in Erie, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, known locally probably as the International Institute, who have been settling people since the 1920’s.”

Grode’s office is filled with his passion for helping new Americans.