Miss New Jersey USA

5 immigrant women vie for Miss USA pageant title

In this May 11, 2017, photo, Miss New Jersey USA Chhavi Verg, right, competes during a preliminary competition for Miss USA in Las Vegas. Very emigrated from India with her parents. Five of the contestants vying for the Miss USA title this year were born in other countries and now U.S. citizens. (John Locher/Associated Press)

LAS VEGAS — Five of the contestants vying for the Miss USA title have a message to immigrant girls and women watching the pageant this weekend: Set goals, work hard and don’t stay in the shadows.

The contestants know what they are talking about as they were all born in other countries and immigrated to the U.S. at young ages as their families pursued their versions of the American Dream. The women are now all U.S. citizens.

“I want them to see that anything is possible if you work hard,” said Linnette De Los Santos, who immigrated with her family from the Dominican Republic when she was 5 years old. “As Miss USA, I would love to be able to be that inspiration for our immigrant community. If I would have stopped following my dreams and working hard towards what I wanted, I wouldn’t be sitting here as Miss Florida USA or in law school ready to become an immigration attorney.”

The competition airs Sunday from Las Vegas.

De Los Santos, Miss North Dakota Raquel Wellentin, Miss Hawaii Julie Kuo, Miss Connecticut Olga Litvinenko and Miss New Jersey Chhavi Verg spoke to The Associated Press about the opportunities and challenges they’ve faced as immigrants.

Their remarks stand in stark contrast to the scandal that enveloped the pageant in 2015, when part owner and now President Donald Trump offended…