When Fasil Muche was in high school, he received a letter telling him he was about to be deported back to his native Ethiopia. It turned out the letter was a mistake, but the emotional upheaval shaped Muche’s views on undocumented immigrants. He wishes no one had to live with the constant fear of deportation. “I was excited about going to college, and suddenly I was plunged into uncertainty about my future,” he says. “It was really upsetting.”
Today it seems that the word ‘immigrant’ has a negative connotation for some people, but this wasn’t the case before.
Muche also knows how much immigrants—both documented and undocumented—contribute to the United States economy. While attending high school, Muche started a taxi company with his two brothers, who had fled Ethiopia’s dictatorship as refugees. After graduating from college, he opened another taxi company, and the two businesses now have contracts with about 150 drivers. In addition, he launched parking management and real estate businesses, and a commercial insurance company that currently issues policies to nearly 300 drivers. “It’s the classic immigrant story,” he says. “You work hard and hopefully impact your community positively.”
Muche hopes that other immigrants are given the opportunity to stay in the United States and become success stories. “It’s challenging adapting to a new system and culture, but at least here the challenges can be overcome through hard work,” he says. “That wasn’t the case back home.” Immigration reform should make it easier for immigrants to start businesses, such as helping them gain access to capital. In the meantime, Americans should celebrate immigrants’ contributions to society rather than demonize them as a group. “Today it seems that the word ‘immigrant’ has a negative connotation for some people, but this wasn’t the case before,” Muche says. When he arrived here in the 1990s, he found the culture much more welcoming. “Yet I know the rhetoric doesn’t reflect American values. Deep down I know the American pubic loves immigrants,” he says. “We’re people who come from nowhere and work hard and play by the rules.”