Saba Nafees was 11 when her parents brought her to the US from Pakistan in 2004. Her grandfather in the country already had filed a visa petition to allow Saba and her family to come to America. But her grandfather died before they traveled here. Despite the death of their petitioner, Saba’s parents decided to come any way.
Today, the situation for Nafees, a doctoral student at Texas Tech and one of about 800,000 Dreamers, and her parents is quite different.
“They actually are in final removal proceedings, so that means the judge has already said ‘I want you deported,’ and they’re in the hands of ICE right now. So it just means they go to their checkins and whenever ICE feels like actually putting them on a plane, that’s when they’ll leave,” she explains.
Nafees, though, applied in 2012 to stay in the US under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program implemented that same year by former President Barack Obama.
“The reason why the judge decided not to deport me was because I had just gotten DACA—this was back in February of 2013, when we had our immigration hearing. And so the judge couldn’t deport me. He closed my case. He didn’t terminate my case because DACA is just an executive order, not something permanent. So yeah, I’ve been in that situation, basically in limbo, for a while and DACA literally saved me from being deported luckily.”
Nafees’ immigration journey will be featured in an upcoming, 75-minute documentary produced by the KTTZ-TV team. "Dream With Me" tells her story over the past two years.
During next week’s First Friday Art Trail, some of the doc’s producers will be in the print studio of the Charles Adams Studio Project across the street from the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts to talk about the film.
An Indiegogo campaign has been set up to help fund remaining needs for the documentary. More information is available on the IndieGoGo home page under “Dream with Me.”
Nafees says it is frustrating to watch the inaction by members of Congress. She says they seem to not recognize how problematic being in limbo is for DACA recipients.
“The situation is just not real enough to a lot of people on the hill,” she says. “They see it as an issue along with so many other issues that they have to deal with and they can’t really think about these stories and really relate to them. And I think that’s the problem.”
Nafees says her favorite memory from the filming was a gathering at her home when her mother visited from Fort Worth. Having her story told through a film, she says, has been a cool experience.
“It was interesting and fun at times. A lot of the real things of our lives have been recorded and I think that’s kind of embarrassing at some points to think about. While driving to the ICE checkin, for example, or being in traffic. There’s good and bad and there’s a lot of interaction with our family, my parents,” she says.
Nafees’ story has gotten it share of attention. In February, Illinois Sen. DicK Durbin highlighted her DACA case on the floor of the US Senate. Twice she has penned commentaries about her plight. First in Aug. 2015 for The Hill and again last September, for the Washington Post.
The 26-year-old married Lubbock resident Daniel Clayton in 2016. He now is her sponsor and together they await the termination of her DACA case so she can apply for a green card as the spouse of a US citizen. Her goal is to finish her doctoral degree in mathematical biology in a couple of years.
She is hopeful the documentary will help Americans understand the difficulties of navigating the immigration system.
“I guess I would just encourage people to open up their hearts and minds and realize that this is just one story and it’s a unique story, yes I think, but I also want to encourage others to seek out other stories and open up their minds and hearts to this issue overall,” she says. “Usually I think if you are not touched by immigration issues, as most Americans aren’t, you really don’t know the difficult rules there are in terms of eventually becoming a citizen.”