NEW YORK — Noe Paramo’s parents were not U.S. citizens when he was born on American soil in 1993. But if you ask Noe, he’s no anchor baby. He’s 100% American.
And under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, he’s 100% right.
“I feel American. I have grown up in a culture that I can honestly call my own,” he said.
Not only is Paramo getting ready to graduate from Armstrong State University in Savannah, Georgia — where he has a 3.0 GPA — but he’s starting to apply to medical schools.
It’s the kind of opportunity his parents, Olga and Rafael, hoped and worked for since they first came to the U.S. in 1990.
Originally from a small village in Mexico where they lived hand-to-mouth, they crossed the U.S. border using a “coyote” — a local guide who helps immigrants cross without papers for a fee.
Once here, Olga and Rafael worked on farms all over the country, picking fruit. They eventually settled in Demarest, Georgia, where there were jobs picking cotton, fruits and vegetables or slaughtering, butchering and packing chickens at the local poultry plant.
Noe was later born in Demarest. He was the first of four siblings.
“I can see how people may use [the term anchor baby] to target those Hispanics who came here illegally and procreated just to keep them ‘attached’ to the U.S.,” Noe said. “However, they do not see the poverty and turmoil that may be going on in their respective countries, or they may not care to know.”
Noe’s parents worked hard, with his father often taking on overnight shifts at the plant to make ends meet. As Noe grew older, he helped his parents learn English and assimilate to U.S. culture. He even helped his dad study for his citizenship test.
Now, his dad is a U.S. citizen and maintains equipment at the cotton plant. His mom, who is now a legal U.S. resident, stays home to take care of the family.
“I admired my parents’ work ethic,” Paramo said. “It’s been a driving force for me in school.”
Noe could have ended up like many of his classmates of Mexican descent, many of whom dropped out of high school to work jobs at farms or at the nearby poultry plant.
But at age 14, he experienced a strange twist of fate: He was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes.
“I was going to see the doctor often and they really helped me to get better,” he said. The doctor also helped his parents take better care of him. “It gave me the ambition to become a doctor.”
Now in his senior year of college, Noe is active in the fraternity he and his friends brought to campus called Lambda Theta Phi, which is intended to promote Latino unity and culture on campuses. He’s excited about medical school. But like most college-aged American kids, he worries about how he is going to pay for it.
His folks have pledged to help him in any way they can.
“Knowing that they’re there for me if I need to fall back on anyone gives me strength to keep going not only to better myself but also the future community,” he said.