Sadness, fear and hope: America’s immigrants mark Independence Day

Sondos Alsilwi with her husband.

‘I don’t feel wanted here’: Zuleyma Castrejon-Salina, 24, North Carolina

Zuleyma Castrejon-Salina and her family have celebrated Independence Day in America together for over two decades.

The 24 year-old came to the US, aged two, without paperwork. As a child she would go shopping for patriotic clothing to mark the Fourth of July holiday. But something changed when she reached high school.

“I realized that I wasn’t really celebrating my freedom, or the freedom of my people,” Castrejon-Salina said. “So now, just because we have the day off, I try to spend it with my family. But it doesn’t have that ‘I’m proud of my country’ feeling any more.”

Castrejon-Salina is one of the 800,000 young people in America who received Daca status under the Obama administration, which protects them from deportation. But as the future of Daca remains unstable under Donald Trump, she and her family prepared for 4 July this year with a degree of trepidation and fear they have never experienced before.

Her parents, both undocumented, will still cook a carne asada, as they do every year – barbecuing ribs, flank steak, and fresh chorizo. But Castrejon-Salina also worries about their annual trip to the local park in Monroe, North Carolina, to watch the fireworks with her four younger siblings.

Zuleyma Castrejon-Salina.
Zuleyma Castrejon-Salina. Photograph: Zuleyma Castrejon-Salina

“When I see so many people there giving us stares, mean stares, or wearing their confederate flags, shirts or hats, it makes me feel like I don’t belong here,” she said.

“My siblings feel very welcomed and like they belong, but they’re younger and not concerned with the things that I’m concerned with because they’re US citizens.”

Her father, who works as a roofer, has lived in America for over half of his life. “He still holds on to that patriotism. He loves the United States and doesn’t want to leave it.”

But Castrejon-Salina is being forced this year to reckon with the prospect of being deported to Mexico, a place she has never lived.

“I was very hopeful when I was younger, but now I’m just, I’m realistic. So if Daca does get terminated, then I won’t care. I think I’ve made my peace with it,” she said.

“I’m OK if I have to leave the country because I really do think I can succeed anywhere. Especially in my home [of Mexico], which I really don’t know. But I feel like that is really more my home than here, because I don’t feel like I am wanted here.”

‘I just feel crushed’: Sondos Alsilwi, 25, lives in New York City

Sondos Alsilwi was born and raised in the US. For most of her life, the Fourth of July has been an exciting time, but this year, the 25-year-old has no plans for the holiday.

Alsilwi, who is nine months pregnant, says Independence Day has lost its meaning as the Trump administration clamps down on immigration, and pushes policies that have kept her separate from her husband, Abdullah, a Yemeni national living in the capital of the war-torn country.

“It’s all fake. I’m sorry, everything is just so fake,” Alsilwi told the Guardian. “This country is founded on immigrants. And for them to put this ban on immigration, it’s just ridiculous.”

Alsilwi hasn’t see Abdullah since last year because he has been stuck in Yemen since the couple applied for his green card in 2016.

His application appears to be caught up in the Trump administration’s travel ban, which has suspended the issuing of immigrant and non-immigrant visa from five Muslim-majority countries – Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Syria (as well as Venezuela and North Korea) – and was upheld by the supreme court earlier this month. It is believed to have affected more than 135m people.

Greisa Martinez (center), a Daca recipient, attends a United We Dream rally.
Greisa Martinez (center), a Daca recipient, attends a United We Dream rally. Photograph: United We Dream

Alsilwi said for two years, US immigration authorities have told her the same…

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