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They came to eastern Idaho as immigrants 6 years ago and they’re proud to call it home

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Javier Hurtado and his wife Marienyeli immigrated to the U.S. six years ago. | Courtesy KPVI

IDAHO FALLS (KPVI) – An Idaho Falls family is showing how just a few words of a second language can make all the difference to those who immigrate to the United States.

“We never had a plan to come to the U.S. or emigrate to another country until the situation was so bad,” explains Javier Hurtado.

Javier Hurtado and his wife Marienyeli left Venezuela six years ago to live in America. At the time, food was scarce in Venezuela. In fact, food insecurity was so bad people had to wait in line in order to buy small rations of food.

“My little daughter was sitting on the sidewalk the entire day just to get some milk,” Mr. Hurtado says.

After his oldest daughter (who was eight at the time) spent an entire day waiting for milk, the family decided it was time to leave their home country.

They planned on moving to Salt Lake City to live with a friend until they got on their feet. However, at the last minute the plan fell through.

“We have the tickets on hand, we have all our suitcases ready, and we don’t know what to do,” Mr. Hurtado recalls.

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One of Javier’s American friends reached out to him on Facebook and suggested he take his family to Idaho. Mr. Hurtado remembers thinking, “Man, I don’t know where Idaho is.”

That friend lived in the Idaho Falls area and took the Hurtados in for a few months. Javier worked in potato fields. After three months, he had enough saved to get his family into their own place.

Moving thousands of miles away was scary, but Mrs. Hurtado says the people here made the transition easier.

She remembers what surprised her about strangers when they first moved to Idaho. In Spanish she says, “People take their time to greet you, smile at you.”

“A simple smile makes your day better,” she says. “You can be sad or be having a bad day, but if you go to the store and someone smiles at you and says ‘good morning’ you feel happy. You feel important.”

Mrs. Hurtado says her neighbors became her close friends. They would come over and help her with her English frequently. This was just one of many ways locals helped the family transition into their new community.

The couple says it’s little things, like a smile, that help immigrants feel welcome and at home in their new country. They say it’s even better when strangers greet them with a few words of Spanish like a simple “hola.”

“Even those little words make a difference,” says Mr. Hurtado. “Just to say hey, I’m here and I’m willing to help you out and help you feel more comfortable and more welcome.”

The Hurtados say people in eastern Idaho are great at making newcomers feel welcome.

“I feel comfortable,” says Mrs. Hurtado. “I feel happy.”

They’re so happy that after six years Idaho Falls is truly home.

“We fell in love with the community, with the place, with everything,” Mr. Hurtado states. Through a laugh he continues, “Not yet with the weather, but we are working on it.”

When the family moved to Idaho they had one daughter. Now, they’re expecting child number three.