Fourteen years ago I landed at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport with a single suitcase in hand; no scholarship and no money to pay for my tuition. I showed up believing that by the special grace of God everything was going to be all right.Little did I know that it was going to take 14 long years of waiting for me to become a US citizen. During those 14 years, it cost me thousands of dollars to remain in the US legally. At one point in 2009, I was without a job and had no work permit. To make matters worse, my wife and four kids were depending on me for food, clothing, and other needs.
At this point, I was tempted to become an illegal immigrant. I could have done this by letting my visa expire. Instead, I chose the only legal option that was available to me at that time, which was to go back to school so that I could be placed on a student visa. Without a job and with no money, even after completing a Ph.D. in Geosciences, I went back to school and enrolled in an MBA program. Paying for this degree meant that I had to charge more than $15,000 on my credit card, not knowing when and how I was going to pay for it.
You may be wondering, “why in the world did I subject my family and myself through all this. Why could I not just go back to Cameroon, my country of origin? Why did I not break the law?” The simple answer was: “The American Dream.” I had lived in America long enough to realize the opportunity of becoming part of the greatest country on earth and leaving my mark on her.
I left Cameroon, my country of origin, for many of the same reasons people leave other countries:
1) Lack of economic opportunities: I had graduated with a Masters degree in geology but was still jobless, so when the opportunity to get into graduate school in the US presented itself, I seized it. Thousands of international students land on the U.S shores each year in the quest for better education and economic opportunities. Thousands more come to the US to look for work so they can improve their economic outlook.
2) Freedom: The ability to speak your mind without fear of arrest and detention is not common in most parts of the world. People are persecuted because of their political and religious beliefs. In some extreme cases, people lose their lives for standing up to repressive regimes.
3) Failed System: This is one of the most complicated and challenging reasons to describe. For example, the president of Cameroon has been president since I was in second grade. That was in 1982, and there is no sign of him relinquishing power anytime soon. This dictatorial regime has led to the abuse of power and misuse of natural resources, depriving most citizens of necessities of life, such as food, shelter, and housing. Some failed systems have led to civil wars, like the situation in Syria, resulting in the displacement of thousands of people who are forced to relocate as refugees.
4) Conquest: This is when you use force to displace other people and occupy their land. This has been an integral part of human history, although we are getting a little better are keeping our hands off other people’s lands.
5) Forceful relocation: Slavery falls under this category. People are forcefully captured, sold, and carried away from their country of origin to a different country without their consent. Sex slavery is still rampant all over the world today, and more has to be done to stop it. Children are still being taken from rural areas to cities and subjected to harsh working conditions by their masters. This is slavery under the disguise of employment.
You may be wondering where I am going with this. You can agree with me that people migrate all the time in search of better conditions or flee from failed and oppressive governments. The big question is why do we have failed systems? Why do some places lack economic opportunities? Why is there no freedom of expression in some places?
We do not have enough room for me to give an adequate answer, but the failure of humans to live by the golden rule is at the root of the answers we seek. That is to do unto others how you want others to do to you.
Most countries have laws that are only in books. The rich and powerful break these laws with impunity. Many governments take more than they can chew. This results in waste, mismanagement, corruption, and nepotism. In such countries, the ruling elite uses fear and intimidation to oppress the people. Any opposing voices are shut down by using the police and military. At the head of such governments are dictators who are almost worshiped as a “god.” They create the impression that the country will perish without them. In short, they weaken the institutions of the country, so there is no separation of power. This one man makes the entire country believe that they are the best thing that ever happened to the country. There is an emphasis on big government and for everybody beholding the government. To get ahead, you have to sing the praise of those in power.
I rejected the notion of singing the praises of those in power and advocated that the government should be the referee instead of a “Santa” figure with a big bag, handing out goodies, especially during elections.
That is why when I came to the United States I obeyed the law and toed the line. Breaking laws leads to a broken system. If we have laws on the books, they must be obeyed. We the people can change the laws if we agree that they are not good laws. Until then, nobody advocates or encourages other people to break the law for political or economic gain.
I and most others who have moved to the United States know that when laws are broken the system will not work and the result will be anarchy. When laws are broken, everybody, including the law-breakers, will be affected.
I am thrilled at this opportunity! You can get the details of my story, Coming to America: A Journey of Faith by Eric Tangumonkem http://amzn.to/2cfa19k
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