Meet Carina Tenaglia, a lawyer, small business owner, sister, and daughter of immigrants from South America. Her dad had immigrated to the United States in the seventies. Years later, her parents met in Brazil, where they both worked for the same company. They later got married, and her mother moved to the U.S., where together they started a family. The oldest of three siblings, Carina is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Brazil, and recently graduated from law school. She grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and currently lives in Washington, D.C.
Carina knows her parents made sacrifices, and worked hard, so that she and her younger brother and sister could get to where they are today. “We were three kids, and they would always make sure we were able to do sports if we wanted to. We never went hungry, nothing like that. I’m sure they could have done other things for themselves like purchasing a nicer house, or moving when they had more lucrative job opportunities. I don’t think they did any of those things because they didn’t want to pull us out of school and wanted to give us more opportunities than they had. For example, I was a competitive swimmer for many years, and my parents looked into whether it would be possible to swing getting me into a private school in South Florida that’s known for developing star athletes. It would have been a huge stretch for them, and I didn’t end up going to the school. But just the fact that they were willing to look into it, and try to figure it out, was a big deal. Although I didn’t always understand or appreciate it at the time, I can see now the sacrifices that immigrant parents like mine made for their children to thrive in America.”
Carina’s parents grew up in different countries, and met while working at the same company in Brazil. They got married, moved to the United States and built a life together in Florida, where each of their children has pursued college and grad school. “My dad is from Argentina, from a small town a few hours from Buenos Aires. He immigrated to New York in the late seventies, then later to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My mom is from São Paulo, Brazil, and she immigrated to the U.S. in the early nineties. I grew up and attended school in South Florida. Then I moved to Tallahassee and went to Florida State University for undergrad, where I obtained my two bachelor’s degrees. My sister attends the University of Central Florida and she’s in the Army ROTC program. She wants to work in military intelligence, and just finished her second year there. I think my sister is toying with the idea of law school, though I might have scared her away a little. And my brother is at the University of Florida, so we have a nice little house divided. He just finished his fourth year, he’s working at an engineering company this summer, and wants to pursue graduate programs.”
She has seen recent shifts in immigration policies, and the atmosphere surrounding those changes. She has reflected on her own nuclear and extended family’s experiences regarding immigration policies. “When my parents moved here it was a much different environment. My dad was working here, and with his family, and was able to get his citizenship quickly. My mom was able to marry him and immigrate to the United States without much of an issue. But it wasn’t too long ago that a close relative in Brazil looked at what it would take for to move to the United States. Even with our family sponsoring him, it would take years and years. We have a lot of family friends who have family in Venezuela or other parts of Latin America who are experiencing difficulties in the midst of the radically shifting geopolitical climate.”