The foreign-born population includes anyone who was not U.S. citizen at birth, including those who have become U.S. citizens through naturalization.
The foreign-born population in Arizona in 2009 by continents, according to the American Community Survey (ACS), issued in October 2010:
Latin America - 69.4 %
Asia - 15.0 %
Europe - 8.9 %
Africa - 2.2 %
Other - 4.5 %
Dzanic's father Mirsad will say to her, "Please, speak Bosanski!" That is her native language. She was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The family of four left their home city, Banja Luka, during the national conflicts in the Balkans in 1992. They fled because they were Muslims in a territory ruled by local Serbs.
They lived in a refugee center in Porec, Croatia for two years. In 1994, the International Red Cross sent them to live in the United States.
Elma Dzanic was twelve years old at the time. Her first American home was a little apartment at Augusta Apartments in west Phoenix.
"(There were) dead cockaroches in the kitchen, a used mattress on the bedroom floor, a few pots in a cardboard box," she recalls. "The fridge was full of items, most of which we couldn't eat because they contained pork. My mother just sat on the floor and cried for hours. I will never forget that moment."
Dzanic realized that the only way to start a normal life would be to learn English. In less than a year, she became the family translator. She assisted her father with his driving test, her mother with her gynecological exam and her younger brother with his homework.
Young refugee education
Dzanic graduated from North High School in Phoenix in 2001. Afterward, she enrolled in the Justice and Social Inquiry Studies program at Arizona State University. Her experience with war led her to courses on globalization of human rights, religion, violence and conflict in the Intergroup Relations Center.
Her hard work made her an ideal research assistant to her professor and mentor Terry Murphy.
"My study on refugees showed that younger women in general were more able to transcend the pain and turn it into something positive than the older ones," Murphy said. "Elma absorbed a lot through her eyes of child, but she was old enough to understand what was happenning. That's why she is so committed to civil rights and resiliant to interrupt the injustice when she sees it.""Once you are a refugee, the rest of your life is a never-ending healing process. For me, very day is the matter of life and death."
After having her diploma in 2005, Dzanic studied Human Rights and Peacebuilding in South Africa for a year. Upon return, she joined Teach for America, a non-profit organization fighting to eliminate educational inequity by enlisiting promising future leaders to serve a two-year teaching term in a low-income community.
"I am only 26 years old and on any given day I feel like I am 56," she said. "It's been a long and hard battle uphill; I had to grow up way too fast. But I love my life and I wouldn't change it for anything. My goal is to make my life story a part of the Arizona's and world heritage, to better the understanding among different social and national groups. I want to be the agent for social change, peacebuilding and equality. That's why I do this work."
Middle-aged refugee re-education
One obstacle for adult Bosnians in the U.S. was their refugee background. They came from Southern Europe, a relatively well-developed part of the world. They were used to the benefits of the Western civilization, from electricity to higher education.
"Starting from zero after you had a good life is particularly hard," said Aida Music. She was an accountant in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, wife of an electric shop owner and mother of a little girl, before arriving in Phoenix. Her family was among the first five Bosnian refugee families in Arizona in 1993.
Now she has a good job in the Admission Records Office of the International Student Center at Maricopa Community Colleges.
Upon her arrival to the U.S., Music joined the Volunteer and Interpreter Programs of the IRC (International Rescue Committee), the primary Arizona organization for resettlement. In 2003 she became a certified court interpreter for Russian and Bosnian-Croatian-Serb languages (BCS) in the District of Arizona legal services.
But Music wanted more education. In 2006, she and her daughter got their master's degrees on the same day – her daughter's in counselling human relations at Northern Arizona University, and hers in international business at Arizona State University.
Music continued helping foreigners in the U.S. She currently assists students from 100 countries speaking 40 languages from ex-Soviet republics, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. She also volunteers for a refugee kindergarten called Irene's Childcare.
Feeling at home in a new country
Among refugees from 13 nations living in Arizona, Bosnians are some of the most well-integrated newcomers.
"I've been through a refugee nightmare. And I have made my American dream come true." Music believes approaches exist that can help one integrate into a new country. She said one way is to develop a social network. The group has a BH Radio Phoenix, Folk Music Group, Islamic Center, and Bosnian restaurants.
Some Bosnians don't like to refer to themself as Bosnian Americans. However, Music feels that both countries reflect her identity.
"Bosnia is in my house, but America is all around it," she said. "And they both have a place in my heart."
Music is thankful that she got to experience life as a refugee.
"If I stayed in Sarajevo, I would now probably be a couch-potato thinking mostly about what to eat for dinner," she said. "I would never have this kind of education and self-confidence to help others."