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Marvin's story of immigration

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 2011

            Marvin fled from Liberia in 1994. For the next eight years, he moved from country to country within Africa, looking for a place with security so that he could start his life again, but the violence from the war followed him. Marvin recalls traveling along a road and hearing the bombs beginning behind him. He looked back for an instant and saw a cow flying towards him, airborne from the gunfire. 

            Marvin displays the scars on his arms and legs. He has many more on his back where his skin was torn apart by crawling through thorny bushes. A thin line crosses his jaw where he was hit with shrapnel and his skin flayed apart. When his chin was torn apart, Marvin was taken in and tended to, but still he was not safe.  His eyes become wide as he explains how the war would take anyone’s life. He believes that no one has the right to decide when it is time for another to die. Marvin escaped the war with his life.“It was not my time to die,” he says. 

            He worked at a variety of places, running a store and fixing electronics, but everywhere he went the war would catch up with him. In 2004 Marvin came to the United States, straight to Des Moines. Iowa is peaceful compared to the life he knew. Here in Iowa his life has become stable and safe. Marvin has worked at the same company for the past four years and has no intention of leaving his job. For once he is not afraid of having to leave.

            Today Marvin comes to AFSC Iowa seeking help to get his children to America. His two children are currently in the care of his brother back in Africa. In order to bring them to America, Marvin needs the official birth certificates of the two children. He has sent money to his brother several times and asked for the certificate, but his brother refuses to send the documents, continuously asking Marvin for more money. The only documents Marvin has ever received from his brother were misspelled and unofficial.

            The process for Marvin has been going on for months. “I can’t even help myself,” says Marvin because the fate of his children is up to his brother who refuses to send the documents. He enjoys his life in America, but he really doesn’t feel that it is his life without his children here with him. He hasn’t seen his children at all since coming to the United States, and he worries that it might be a long time before he sees them again.