Daniel and Diana Borja have lived in Mitchell for less than two years, but it has become their home.
Daniel came to the U.S. from Mexico 34 years ago to go to school and eventually work in California. He spent three years in high school in Southgate, California., where he learned English.
He moved back to Mexico for a while, which is where he met Diana. They married, and his desire for a better job brought him to the Midwest when a friend in the Huron area told him that Jack Link’s was looking for a bilingual employee. In 2009, he moved to Huron to begin his new job. By this time, he and Diana had three daughters – Diony, now 11, and twins Daniela and Diana, now 10 years old. The girls were American citizens because Daniel had earned his citizenship before they were born, but it took more than a year of paperwork before his wife, Diana, could move to the U.S.
Daniel said they did not use an immigration attorney for the process because it can cost $5,000 to $10,000. Since his English is good, he took on the work himself, and credits a staff member at Rep. Kristi Noem’s office in Watertown with being a great resource. Diana earned her U.S. citizenship just last fall.
About three years ago, Daniel found out that Trail King in Mitchell was looking for a bilingual person to translate and train Spanish-speaking employees. He was hired for the position and spent the next several months learning everything he could about the company and the various jobs the employees do.
He credits Bruce Yakely, Trail King CEO, with having the trust in him to let him figure out his job as he did it.
“Bruce gave me authority,” said Daniel, “and when you have authority, you can use it to help people. When they see me on the floor with a radio, they know I’m someone who can help.”
And he does help – in addition to translating and training, he recruits workforce, helps those who want to learn English by connecting them with classes, helps with the immigration process if necessary, and shares his knowledge about establishing credit, buying a home and connecting to other Hispanic community members.
One of his goals has been to find indoor recreational space in the winter months. He recently was able to schedule the Mitchell Armory above City Hall for playing soccer and volleyball.
“We wanted a place where we could have games indoors in the winter,” he said. “But it’s not just for the Hispanic people; anyone who wants to join us is welcome.”
As a church pastor, Daniel also welcomes new residents to his church services. His group rents the Harvest Community Church in Mitchell, and he still travels to Huron to do services there.
Daniel and his family have settled into Mitchell, and they purchased a home last fall. He remembers a kindness they experienced when they moved in.
“A coworker who lives in our neighborhood brought us a basket with food and things to welcome us,” he said. “It was so nice; I will remember that, and I will do the same thing when I have the opportunity.”
The Borja children are adjusting well to Mitchell, according to Daniel. The twins are attending school at Longfellow, and Diony is at the middle school.
“They are happy, so I’m happy,” he said.
Daniel’s attitude about his adopted community is positive, and he says he has only had good experiences here. Some of that is likely due to his own positive outlook and outgoing personality. He tells about his early days at Trail King, when people would be curious about the food in his lunchbox. A couple of times he even packed a few extra burritos to share as way to connect with new coworkers.
In addition to translating at Trail King, he has made himself available to other businesses and organizations who need occasional Spanish/English translation services. He sees being bilingual as a strong advantage, and he is encouraging of those who are just learning English and feel self-conscious.
“I tell them that speaking English with an accent is something to be proud of,” he said. “It means that you can speak more than one language, and many people cannot do that.”
"Be proud you speak with an accent; it means you know two languages."Thursday, March 1, 2018