At the age of 14, Tolu Olubunmi came to the United States with the hopes of immigrating legally. But 17 years later, she is an undocumented immigrant living in the U.S. but unable to use her chemical engineering degree in the workplace or even leave the country for fear of being banned from re-entry.
“I am not used to the limbo. I am not used to stress. I am not used to sharing my story. I am not a public person at all, but the courageous attitudes of the dreamers I’ve gotten to work with over the years and the fact that they were so willing to lay everything on the line - it really spurred me on,” said the 31-year old who is a human and civil rights advocacy volunteer for the Dream Coaltion, amid other organizations. “Plus, I saw the impertinence of adding my voice as an African.”
The immigration debate has once again surged to the headlines in the U.S.. This, after President Barack Obama announced a new directive that will allow some undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. before age 16 -- but who are now still under 30 -- to obtain work permits. Olubunmi added the issue affects African immigrants though they are usually in the shadows of the debate.
“I think what’s important is that this issue goes well beyond the Latino community,” she said. “Solutions would be better and more well-rounded if we recognize the diversity.”
Olubunmi said more than 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants living the U.S. will be affected by Obama’s directive, though it she added it is difficult to determine how many of those are originally from African countries.