WORDS: ADESOLA OGUNLEYE | ART: NUSHA ASHJAEE

I didn’t have the best childhood. It was actually pretty fucking sad. I was exposed to domestic, sexual and emotional abuse many times from various people before the age of 13.

A feeling of being treated like trash and being unwanted and then believing it was true is something that followed me until I was in college. Shuffling from home to home not knowing who would hate me, feeling that I was not worthy enough to be in their presence, hearing the words “don’t touch her, she’s not your real sister” in many variations made me feel like I was some strange being. All I knew was that I was alone, I wanted to be with my mom, and I was confused. Life swung from happiness, anger, sadness, fear, and worthlessness in a split second carousel. When I was younger and living in Nigeria, I lived with my mother and her abusive husband. Eventually, he threatened my life and I was forced to move out. After living with my mother’s friend for a few months, she decided to send me to America with the help of my father. So, I came to the states legally by myself when I was between the ages of six and eight. At that time you could come to America as a minor without an adult. You could do that by having someone on the airline sign off that you were on the plane. This will be important later.

My first stop in America was New York. I took a train from New York to Maryland and stayed with my paternal aunt who is one of the very few people in my family that I trust. My family has continuously treated me like an outcast but she treats me with care, loves me deeply, and accepts me for who I am. My dad has been in and out of my life since I can remember. There are few things that I can actually remember. He’s tall, has a scratchy, thick beard and mustache, and he always had a suitcase filled with money. My aunt later married and I then lived with my stepmother who was also abusive towards me throughout my time in elementary school.

She finally told me that my father had sold my visa.

When I turned 11, I moved in with my mother who had finally made it to the US. When I turned 13, I wanted to get a job because my mother and I were sharing a one-bedroom apartment. My mother refused but yet complained when I asked for money. So I was very confused. She finally told me that my father had sold my visa. My visa was the only proof that I came to the US legally. From that point on, I began to live in constant fear. I feared that I would be snatched away from my mother who had just arrived. A mother that I had been crying for years to come and save me from the abuse that I experienced.

Eventually, we found a way for me to go to college. I finally got my social security number but I was still in immigration limbo. I met the love of my life and we married. But, the visa continued to be a threat to our happiness. We found a good lawyer that told me that the work my mother and I were doing to find the visa would not help. The lawyer told us that we were given the wrong information. All the money we spent was for naught.

So I applied to DACA and was accepted. I finally felt safe. I would be able to start working my way towards some kind of a green card. Under DACA, if filed early enough, I’d be able to travel if I needed to for work, for school, or to see family in the case of an emergency.

I need for everyone to recognize the urgency and seriousness of this situation.

Now that DACA has been repealed, it doesn’t matter that I have been here forever. It doesn’t matter that I had a business, paid taxes, etc. It does not matter that my whole life all I’ve known is being an American. This is my home. I know nothing else and I cannot begin to fathom how to begin anew after all of this trauma, in a country I do not feel safe in. My mother moved back there 5 years ago and is now back in America. These are very scary times and I just want for everyone to look at the situation with decency for the children who were brought here. We deserve to be given a chance. I need to be given a chance and I need for everyone to recognize the urgency and seriousness of this situation.

The repeal is scheduled to happen on March 5th. People will start to be deported on March 5th. People have been getting deported quietly in droves. There was actually a large-scale deportation that began right before Hurricane Harvey called Operation Mega. It was stopped because of the hurricane but it will start back up.

I am asking for your help. You can help by supporting an organization that is reliable and that needs help. Please support and be there for the people that you know personally who are going through shit. Never underestimate or belittle their emotions or story.

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