Photo: Leila Roumani

Rebecca A.

Ethiopia - USA

35, Attorney
Boston, Massachusetts

I was born in Ethiopia and remember having most of my mother's family close by as I grew. Some aunts and uncles were already in the US, specifically to further their studies, and my sister (the only one I have) went on a trip with my grandparents to visit those aunties and uncles in Boston. Unfortunately, or fortunately as it were, my sister had an accident that brought her under the scrutiny of specialist doctors who diagnosed her with scoliosis. She needed surgery and so she, along with my grandparents, stayed longer than expected to find her medical care. At the same time, my parents were more directly feeling the repression of the current authoritarian regime in Ethiopia. It was 1986 and Mengistu Hailemariam was in power then. My father was most targeted and suffered through detention before it was decided that we could no longer stay there with out risking further harm. My mother and I left my father and traveled to Boston on our own. There, we were met by my sister, whom I hadn't seen in what seemed to my 5 year old self as years. We lived with my mother's parents and her brother and sister for a couple of years until my father was finally able to travel and join us. Since the my parents have worked on creating a new life for themselves. My father worked various jobs: cashier, taxi driver, security guard and my mother did the same (except for the driving part, she has always been a nervous driver). And my sister and I grew up in the US. Somewhat local, but the feeling that we were foreign or different ever present in our lives. I spoke to my mother right after the Executive Order banning Muslim travel came into effect. She lamented how she thought she had left a place like this. She was sad that she now has to encounter a world order that she was much too familiar with 30 years ago; a repressive and discriminatory government that she desperately needed to escape, but somehow has followed her still.

Why did your family come to the United States? My family came to the United States to escape government persecution and repression.

What would the U.S. be missing out on if you or your people were banned? A family who doesn't feel like the holiday season has started until they have seen Die Hard at least 3 times. A mother and father who regularly help with their weekly church service. Two young black sisters who watch Seinfeld still and feel it resonate in their lives.