Wilmer Valderrama On Immigration: “Biggest Gift This Country Has Ever Had”
Wilmer Valderrama’s life wasn’t all fine and dandy before his big break as Fez on the hit series That 70’s Show. The Colombian and Venezuelan actor shared via Youtube his touching story of when he first came to the United States as an immigrant.
Valderrama’s story was one of learning, sacrifice and finding value in hard work. “We came to the United States as a family at the end of ’93 beginning of ’94,” he said. “My dad made it very clear that we came here to work.” At 14, he worked tirelessly to fully grasp the English language, describing it as the only tool he needed to build what he wanted to do next.
“We were eating dinner every other night,” he continued, “and I told my father—I said ‘Dad don’t worry. I know you guys are stressed, I’m going to be this actor and I’m gonna do all these movies.’ A couple of years later I auditioned for my first pilot, That 70’s Show. The show changed our lives. We did eight years and 200 episodes, and instead of going to 99 cent stores, we were now going to Ralphs.”
Valderrama’s video was made to promote Immigrant Heritage Month, a celebration of the diversity of immigrants and their stories. Using the hashtag #IAmAnImmigrant, immigrants all over the United States have joined the campaign and shared their stories with the world. Some tell stories of hate, some tell stories full of sorrow, others simply find the joy in their experiences.
“To me that is exactly what America is, there is a really misguided and ignorant number of sentences that follow the word ‘immigration’ nowadays. Unfortunately, a lot of young people are growing up with the word immigration being somehow a negative when really it’s the biggest gift that this country has ever had.”
Follow the #IAmAnImmigrant Campaign, here.