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“To Live the American Dream…I Must Leave”

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Dreamer Choosing to Leave U.S. Is a Poignant Reminder of Damage Caused by the Trump Administration, Need for Action by Congress  

In a powerful and heartbreaking op-ed in the New York Times, Tawheeda Wahabzada, a Dreamer who has lived in the US since 1995, explains why she is choosing to leave the United States in early 2020. Wahabzada’s story is a poignant reminder of the immeasurable damage caused by the Trump administration’s cruelty and the opposition to Dream Act legislation from Republicans in Congress.

In September 2017, Trump unilaterally ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, leaving hundreds of thousands of Dreamers in legal limbo. When Congress took up bipartisan legislation to put Dreamers and others on a path to citizenship, White House and Republican opposition torpedoed those efforts. When federal courts step in to stop this cruel decision, the Trump administration fast-tracked the case to the Supreme Court.

Next spring, the fate of Dreamers like Ms. Wahabzada will be left to Trump’s conservative Court. That is, unless Trump and Senate Republicans decide to take up and approve the Dream and Promise Act, a bill approved on a bipartisan basis by the House of Representatives that would formally recognize Dreamers and TPS/DED holders as the Americans they already are.

The op-ed is excerpted below and can be read in full here

I am a Dreamer. I have lived in the United States since 1995. I plan to self-deport in early 2020.

In 2012, when DACA was introduced, I thought it could be a steppingstone to having permanent status. However in September 2017, the Trump administration announced its plans to terminate DACA by March 5, 2018 — though injunctions from lower courts allowed applications to still be received. Recently, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, but with a conservative-leaning court, there is greater potential for DACA to end.

This is why I am leaving the United States. I am 29. I have waited 24 years for a solution. Like all DACA recipients, I have been living my life in two-year increments — the duration of my temporary status. I will no longer keep waiting for the idea of a pathway to citizenship.

In my case, being undocumented is a civil violation. Undocumented immigrants who self-deport after spending over 180 days in the United States face a three-year bar on re-entry, while those like me who have spent over a year in the country are barred for 10 years. For trying to find a solution to an untenable situation and freedom from uncertainty, I will be banished.

Leaving the United States is deeply saddening. The 10-year bar is the most painful aspect, as I will not be able to visit family and friends. I cannot attend graduations, weddings or funerals. I will especially miss my grandmother — who helped raise me and is my best friend — as I don’t know how often I will see her after I depart. If I stay, I’m waiting on the Supreme Court decision: I will either be able to continue my life in limbo as a DACA recipient or my status will phase out.

The ugly politics of the United States leave me with no desirable choice. I no longer wish to be a bargaining chip for a border wall. I am no longer willing to be another sob story to win votes. I can no longer go to bed every night with the anxiety of such an unsecure future. But I am privileged that by chance I was born in a high-income country to which I can easily return. I am privileged to have the agency to leave.

Isn’t that the great irony? To live the American dream of opportunity and autonomy, I must leave.