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"I remember that José came to me and said that he needed a day off," Tryon said. "I was a little surprised because he was one of those guys who never would ask for time off. But then he told me that he needed that day because he was going to become a U.S. citizen."
Jimenez’s story isn’t atypical of the immigrant experience, according to immigration advocates.
Long path to the American dream
An estimated 13.1 million immigrants with legal permanent resident status were living in the United States as of Jan. 1, 2011, with an estimated 8.5 million eligible to become citizens. There were also 11.5 million unauthorized immigrants within U.S. borders.
Congress and the White House are debating reforming the U.S. immigration system that will impact millions of legal and illegal immigrants.
"Anyone who takes the time to study the immigrant experience will see such success stories replicated thousands of times, over and over," said Josie Valdez, who is vice chair of the Utah Democratic Party.
"Immigrants who come to this country come here for a better life. They want to contribute to our communities and share their aspirations and talents.’’
While working his way up in Overstock.com’s shipping department, Jimenez nurtured his hopes of working in information technology, attending night school to earn a master’s degree in IT. He’d often stay past 11 p.m. to do his homework on the school’s computers.
He shared a car and a basement apartment with his brother, a hotel worker in downtown Salt Lake City. "He would drop me off at work and then pick me up when my shift was over and take me to the University of Phoenix for my classes,’’ Jimenez recalled.
Overstock’s Tryon said that a horrific tragedy brought Jimenez’s ambitions to his attention.
In 2007, Overstock employee Vanessa Quinn was among those killed when a gunman went on a shooting rampage at Trolley Square. Quinn, it turned out, was one of José’s mentors and upon her death, the company created a scholarship in her name. Jimenez applied for it, successfully.
``It was only then I [found out] he was working on a degree," Tryon said.
After Jimenez got his master’s in 2008, he pressed Tryon about going to work in the company’s IT department. ``At the time, I told him we really needed him in logistics but that if he would be patient I would see what I could do," Tryon said.
Two years later, Jimenez joined the IT operation, where he now works as a junior quality assurance engineer, testing the software used to run the company’s warehouse systems.
"I would like someday to oversee my own team," Jimenez said.
Over the years, Jimenez married his childhood sweetheart, had two children and bought a home.
Tryon said he takes pride in Jimenez’s success and he worries that such immigrant success stories get lost in the larger debate on the issue.
Immigration, Tryon said, "has allowed us to draw upon the strengths of all the different cultures of the world."
Said Jimenez: "I believe that immigrants have a lot to contribute to this country. Those who are good people and willing to go through the process set up by the government deserve a chance to show what they can do."
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