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Salahadin Abda

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Salahadin Abda was born in Bale Robe in the Oromia region of Ethiopia in the 1980's. He left Ethiopia after graduating high school and lived in refugee camps in Kenya, where he met his wife. His wife and her family resettled in the United States, and he later joined them in Minnesota.

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My name is Salahadin Abda and this is the story of how I became a citizen and my coming to America story.

I was born in Ethiopia, Bale Robe, Oromia region. Ethiopia's oppressive dictatorship does not allow freedom of speech. If you did speak freely, terrible things may happen. So, in 1997, after I moved to Nairobi, Kenya, because I might have been kidnapped for political reasons. In Ethiopia, tribes kidnapped men from other tribes because they fear they will lose power if there are less men in their tribe.

I left right after I graduated high school. I went alone to Kenya. I lived in Kenya for a little over five years in the refugee camps. Kenya is much more stable than Ethiopia even though there is a lot of corruption. It is managed much better by the government.

In Kenya, I met my wife. We bonded over our refugee status and fell in love in Nairobi. We got married in 2000. My wife moved with her family to the United States in 2000. After she arrived in the United States, I applied to come to this country through the marriage visa called CR-1. It took quite a long time. It was since- until 2003 that I come to the United States. I went to Minnesota where my wife was, somewhere much different than Nairobi. I was stunned at the culture, a lot less surprised than some old friends who moved to Las Vegas.

My wife and I were so happy to be reunited. When I got to the United States, everything was set up for me: an apartment, a car, and a furnished house. I vividly remember my first winter here. I was so shocked by the bitter cold.

My first job was in manufacturing. It was so hard and a level intensive. I really hated it. I heard about all the opportunity here. I was so surprised by how hard and long I was working. I got up in the morning before the sun rose and left in the evening after the sun set. I had to ask myself is this why I came to U.S. So I started looking for other, more fulfilling jobs. I entertained the idea of going to medical school, a great dream of mine. I quit my job and started working at the nursing home as a nursing assistant. I was very culture shocked at first, especially by all of the older people behaviors. This was my first experience with blatant racism. However, I ignored it.

I really loved working in the medical field and saw a great future for myself and my growing family. I wanted a future my knowledge in the medical field, so I pursued different areas of nurse, technician, and hospital. I [inaudible] in the cardiac unit and worked in many other units. At the same time, I took a class every semester for eight years to get to the nursing school and pursue my dream.

When I get to United States, we immediately started our family. I have six kids now between the ages of sixteen months old and thirteen years old. Then they are happy and healthy. They are all eating and doing their business, sleeping and smart like their daddy. I am happy to say that I am offering them a better future in the United States even if they do encounter racism like I have.

One day I will go back to Ethiopia. I miss the land and the weather. All of my family is here. It's beautiful. Even all the technology. There aren't as many regulations, which is nice. I need the freedom but the political problems are [inaudible]. There is one thing that I don't like about the U.S. that I don't encounter in Africa. It is the racism. People stop you in this country because of your color in the rich areas, but you cannot get everything. You have the opportunity to pursue what you want. There was not as much judgments on how you looked in Africa. I am now afraid because of my Muslim religion I will be persecuted in this country. I feel for my children and hope they do not experience oppression and discrimination I feel that I have experienced in Ethiopia.