Sheila Kimani: Dreaming of citizenship

York has been Sheila’s home for more than half her life. But without a path to citizenship, she lives in limbo.

Presented by: Our York Media
Written by: Kate Penn
Sheila Kimani (Photo by Paul Chaplin for Our York Media)

It wasn’t until she started applying for college that Sheila Kimani really understood her status.

She couldn’t check the in-state resident box. 

She couldn’t check the out-of-state resident box. 

She was undocumented.

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Sheila was 12 when she left her home in Kenya. 

She and her brother re-joined their parents after five years apart as they worked, saved money, and established themselves in the United States. They came here for the American dream — for opportunity, education, and a better life for their children. 

There was a bit of culture shock moving from Nairobi, Kenya, to Laurel, Maryland, then Red Lion, Pennsylvania, but she adapted and assimilated to life in America quickly. 

As she grew up and learned more about her immigration status, she was advised not to openly discuss the topic, as it was a private and complex matter with implications.

Being a citizen of the United States, most people don’t realize what an advantage that is.

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Sheila Kimani

It was like this cloud that followed her, casting a shadow on her whole life. Limiting her life’s dreams and aspirations.  

When the DACA program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was created, Sheila and her brother both qualified. 

“It was beyond excitement,” Sheila says. “Like a weight was lifted.” 

With DACA, Sheila could work legally and she was protected. Although DACA was a blessing to Sheila and many others, it still did not provide a path to citizenship. 

“Being a citizen of the United States, most people don’t realize what an advantage that is,” she says. “It gives you opportunities and advantages no other country can provide.” 

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Being an advocate for immigration reform is new to Sheila.  

She wants people to understand what it’s really like for immigrants — who they are, why they come here, and how hard it is to actually become a citizen. 

“It’s not simple, it’s a cumbersome process and it’s not cheap,” she says. 

Still, she’s hopeful for her future. She calls herself an advocate for positivity. 

York is her home.  

America is her home — it has been for more than half her life.  

She looks forward to the day her path is paved toward citizenship.   

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