Is my story being erased?
By Sara H., Englewood, OH
My family and I came to this country because it was a land that was committed to representing its people’s voices, that offered those who worked hard an opportunity to change their future. That simply wasn’t true for us in Morocco, where we’re from.
Our dad arrived first — he got a visa, flew over in 1995, and got us a place to live. My mom, sister, and I came in ’96, and we enrolled in school. My dad got a job, started working — he’s been paying taxes, like any employee should, from the very beginning.
We built a life and kept trying to cement our legal status. We had lawyers and tried everything, but even though we filed several petitions to get legal status — for a work permit, a work visa, anything we could think of — we could never get through. We tried to do it the right way, did everything that they asked us to.
Then 9/11 happened. We’re Muslim; when we saw flyers around town asking Muslims to do a special registration, a registration that would supposedly streamline the naturalization process, my father went in. It was also around the time we were finally able to file for legal status. But when he showed up, they handcuffed him and tried to claim that he had come into the country illegally, that he had avoided the law. My mother, who was with him, tried to clarify — but they got angry and took away her passport. They said our lawyer would receive a notice in the mail within 30 days summoning her. As far as we know, that paper never came.
This whole time, even now, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has known where we’ve been located. We were transparent about everything, have never hidden — we wanted to do the right thing.
Nothing specific happened to my father that day. While we were alarmed, it seemed like we could try to keep living as normally as possible, at least for the moment.
And so we focused on our family, which was most pressing. My brother was born here, with both Down Syndrome and a hole in his heart. My mom took to caring for him — with all of his complications, his weekly medical visits, she’s had to spend enormous amounts of time and energy as his main caregiver.
But in June 2007, we got a knock on the door. It was law enforcement, coming to get my mom because she had failed to appear at a court hearing — a hearing we were never notified of, and at this point, six years after it was supposed to occur. Whether they sent the notice to a wrong address, or our lawyer never gave it to us, we’ll never know — we never got anything, and no one is willing to look years back to see what the mistake could have been. But beyond that, and to this day, no one has given us a chance to express our side, what we’ve been through, how hard we’ve tried.
They took my mom to a hearing, where they never let her speak, and then they detained her for five months. I was only 17. When they finally let her out of detention in November of that year, they never gave us a reason why.
Since then, she has been checking in with law enforcement as often as they wanted. Still we had faith that if we did the right thing, we’d be okay. But when this administration came in, we were terrified — and just a couple of months ago, they let her know they’re going to deport her. Last week, they put an ankle monitor on her; just this week, they said November 27th would most likely be the date of her deportation.
What I wish I could convey is that what is happening to our family isn’t about the integrity of the law — we have tried every option available to be honest, fair, and respectful of the system and the values it’s supposed to uphold, and we continue to do so in the face of its mistreatment of us.
What is happening is not about protecting American communities — my 15-year-old brother, a citizen by birth, is about to lose his main source of care and support. While I am a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, my status will soon be in limbo, too, since the administration revoked the program. And then what will my brother do? And what of the communities that my sister and I are enmeshed in, that we’ve contributed to? People make up communities, not their papers. I was 5 when I came here. I went from kindergarten through high school here. This is my country, these are my people.
And what’s happening is certainly not about the American Dream. My story is being erased, not championed — no matter how hard I work or how much I sacrifice.
It’s hard enough to see that only certain voices matter to this administration, and they’re taking advantage of a broken immigration system to go after struggling families like mine instead of criminals. The very people we trusted to represent our American communities are deaf to my cries. Now, my family will be torn, and it’s anyone’s guess what will become of each of us.
And yet, I still believe there’s power in using our voices, and I believe in the American spirit of taking care of your neighbor. I have to.
I hope that by putting this out there, someone hears me.
Originally published at www.ofa.us.