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An African Immigrant’s Story

An African Immigrant’s Story

Mara Davidson

Mara Davidson is an AFSC Iowa intern for Spring 2011. She's been interviewing clients of AFSC's Immigrants Voice Program. Jody Mashek directs AFSC's immigration legal services work in Des Moines.

Photo: AFSC

By Mara Davidson, AFSC Iowa Intern, April 5, 2011

Today a father and daughter came into AFSC Iowa. For the purposes of this interview, they wished to remain anonymous. Both came from Africa to America as refugees over five years ago.

The father left behind a wife and 21 children, two of whom currently reside in the United States. He comes to AFSC today seeking help for his broken-apart family. He wants to know what his next step is. Without his family he feels lost and lonely in the United States. He wants to see his family reunited here in the United States, but without citizenship for himself, getting citizenship for his family seems impossible.

The father is unable to read or write. Without those skills he cannot study or pass the citizenship test. The father confided that even if he was able to pass the citizenship test, he does not want citizenship if he cannot also have his family. “His body is here, but his mind and soul are not,” said his daughter.

Her father seeks companionship. He wants the type of companionship that most people take for granted. He wants someone to talk to at the end of the day, someone to confide in. Currently he lives with his daughter, but she is busy with work and her own family. She does not have the proper time to give her father the support he needs.

What is a man to do when stuck between two places? In the United States he is alone, but if he returns to Africa, everything that he has gained in America will be lost.