By Carol Abbey-Mensah
“I’ve always felt uncomfortable; until I get a Green Card I will never feel fully comfortable.”
This is how Amanda, an undocumented immigrant, and perhaps the over 665,000 young adults on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals feel about life in America.
Amanda is not the girl’s real name, while she had to give her legal name to the government when she applied for DACA, few others know she utilizes the program. She is fearful of how her friends and teachers would treat her if they knew.
DACA, is an American immigration policy that protects eligible immigrant youth, who came to the U.S. when they were children from deportation. It also provides young undocumented immigrants with a work permit. This program has been protecting undocumented immigrants since 2012, so it came as a shock when President Trump ordered an end to the program and urged Congress to pass a replacement before he begins phasing out its protections in six months.
Amanda was not aware of the president’s decision until her mum told her.
“I remember I came back from school and my mum asked me to go on the internet to read about it online,” Amanda said. “I felt devastated after I read it.”
Amanda lived in Conakry, Guinea until she was 5, when she came here on a visit visa along with her mum and brother. She remembers her time in Conakry vaguely-eating cornbread at her grandma’s house, learning how to recite the Quran and the time they had to spend in Paris before they continued their journey to the United States of America.
She lived in Michigan as an undocumented immigrant until 2012, when then President Barack Obama, introduced the DACA program.
Her brother registered her for DACA when she was 17.
“I was waiting for my mum to become a citizen, which will make me a citizen too, but her case is still pending and she has still not received her papers, so my brother had to apply for my DACA,” she said.
Amanda, now a 20-year-old woman, faces deportation if Trump successfully cancels the DACA program.
“I don’t know why he wants us to go back to our countries,” she said. “We work here and pay taxes and we are not even entitled to all the privileges other immigrants get. I don’t get financial aid, not even loans. I had to leave Western Michigan University for WCC because I couldn’t afford it.”
Apart from not getting financial aid, Amanda also added that she could not travel outside the country.
“Anytime my friends are talking about going to Canada, I never participate in the conversation. When they try to involve me I just tell them the tickets are too expensive and I’ll definitely go one day. It’s so embarrassing,” she said.
Amanda is a Pre-Law major at WCC, and like other college students, she juggles college with work. She works as a waitress, and she thinks it’s stupid when people think undocumented immigrants are taking the jobs of citizens.
“There will be no jobs for us if the citizens really wanted to work,” she said. “There are many jobs that Americans don’t want to do or think they shouldn’t do. We are the ones doing these jobs, no one is taking their jobs.”
Amanda’s boyfriend works with her, as a cook. They might see each other everyday, but one thing he might never know about his tall, dark-skinned girlfriend is that she’s undocumented.
“I don’t know how he’s going to react when I tell him, he might freak out or even get scared,” Amanda said.
In the midst of juggling work with school, hiding her status from her boyfriend, and facing deportation, Amanda rarely thinks of the life she could have had if she were back home in Guinea.
“I think I have a great life here,” she said. “If I were back home, I wouldn’t own a car or even have a job, I wouldn’t be as independent as I am now. I know a lot of people my age in my country who still ask their parents to give them money to buy food. I like that I don’t have to do that.”
Although the future is uncertain for Nadi, she still hopes things will get better.
“I hope they replace DACA with something else. I can’t go back home. I don’t have any friends to go back to, this is where I grew up. This is all I know.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The name used in this story is a pseudonym intended to protect the undocumented student from any harassment.