Black & Undocumented: Caribbean Immigrant’s Long Fight for Citizenship
by MELISSA NOEL
WASHINGTON — When Shariece Wright immigrated to the United States from the Bahamas in 1985 she was just 4-years-old. Her mother put her on a plane to Florida and told her that she would be going to live with an aunt in Miami.
She says she will never forget that day because it saddened her to leave her five siblings and mother behind. However, even at that young age Wright understood what her mother meant when she referred to the United States as “the place of endless opportunities.”
“This is the place where if you work hard, go to school and carry yourself respectfully then you can achieve all of your dreams, or at least that is what I have always thought,” she says.
“WE, AS UNDOCUMENTED PEOPLE LIVING IN THIS COUNTRY, FEEL JAILED.” — SHARIECE WRIGHT
Now 35, Wright has discovered that access to the opportunities she has dreamed of have actually been “painfully” limited because after 17 years of trying to get a green card — the first step on the path to citizenship — she remains undocumented.
It is April 18 and she stands on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to share her story before thousands at a rally for undocumented immigrants organized by Fight for Families, the coalition that advocates for DACA and DAPA.
Just before taking the stage, Wright tears up as she listened to the Howard University Gospel Choir. “This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York island, …” she repeats the lines over and over.
“We, as undocumented people living in this country, feel jailed,” she tells NBCBLK. “We live in bubbles, like individual cells. However, we are expected to live and do everything as the rest of society. But how?”
Wright graduated from the prestigious Design and Architecture Senior High School (DASH) in Miami. She had plans to study architecture and the arts in college. However, owing to her undocumented status she was not permitted to enroll. She has faced severe financial hardships because she cannot find a stable job without work authorization and a social security number. Currently, Wright has several jobs, including as a restaurant worker and hair stylist.