Roughly 800,000 people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children have been able to study and work in the country legally because of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — or DACA. They are often described as “coming out from the shadows.” But in many cases, these undocumented kids were never in the shadows to begin with.

Timi Wusu — everyone calls him Wusu — has a huge personality. Last year on the day his daughter was born, he filmed a shot-for-shot remake of that opening scene from “The Lion King,” where they hold up the baby Simba and sing the “Circle of Life.” All the nurses and doctors were dancing along beneath his daughter. The video went viral.

I grew up with Wusu in Palo Alto. We weren’t friends, but in high school he was the kind of standout guy everyone knew. He was the star of the football team and super smart. He went to Stanford, made the football team there and played briefly in the NFL.

Then in 2008, Wusu was offered a deal to play football in Canada.

He soon learned that wasn’t an option.

“I called my dad and said, ‘Hey, I haven’t ever seen my passport — I’m sure it’s expired.’ He said, ‘Let me get back to you.’ The next day we met up in person, and he let me know why I couldn’t go. He basically said, ‘If you leave the country you may not be able to come back.’ ”

That’s because Wusu was born in Nigeria, not the Unites States, as his parents had led him to believe. They entered the country on a visitor visa when he was 3 and stayed illegally.

It wasn’t until he was 23 that Wusu found out he was undocumented.

But there was a saving grace. Her name was Maria. She and Wusu met at Stanford and sparks flew. She went on to medical school in Chicago, and when Wusu visited on her birthday and proposed, she accepted.

Then at breakfast the next day, he told her he had some other news.

“So he said, ‘Remember how I thought I would go to Canada to play football?’ ” Maria Wusu recalls. “He said, ‘Well it turns out I can’t go to Canada. I can’t leave the country because, guess what. I’m not a citizen.’ I was like, ‘Are you marrying me for a green card?’ And he said, ‘No that’s the awesome thing. I decided I wanted to marry you, and then I found out that I wasn’t a citizen!’ which kind of goes with his positive outlook on everything.”

Wusu joined Maria in medical school, and after they got married he applied for permanent status based on her citizenship.

On March 15, 2013, medical students across the country found out where they’d been accepted to do their residencies. Wusu was on his way to Harvard, and Maria would be across the Charles River at Boston University.

“And then I remember the next morning waking up and there was some mail that we needed to go through. And there was a letter from USCIS — immigration services,” Maria says. “We opened it and it said that our petition to file for citizenship had been denied. Wusu was now in the country illegally and he needed to leave the country immediately. And I remember reading that letter at the kitchen table, and just breaking down and crying and not knowing what to do.”

Because Wusu had represented himself as a U.S. citizen — because he thought he was a U.S. citizen — the government said he couldn’t stay here legally, marriage or no marriage. For once in his life, it was hard to keep a positive attitude.

“There’s just been roadblocks at every stage,” he says. “It’s like I couldn’t have done anything better or tried to achieve more — proven that this is my home, and that I’m here to work and be a positive contributor to society. And so you’re like, ‘OK, well like I guess America really doesn’t want me.’ ”

But there was one last hope. The Obama administration had just implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. DACA allowed Wusu to complete medical school and start his residency.

After President Trump was elected, Wusu decided to reapply for a green card. He hired a lawyer who represents people like him, who unknowingly claimed citizenship falsely. This summer, Wusu got his green card.

Wusu says getting his green card initially felt like a relief. But that relief soon turned to frustration that he’d had to jump through so many hoops to be allowed to continue his schooling and work.

“That kind of sucked,” he says. “Was that really necessary to make me feel completely unwelcome, when all I’ve been trying to do all this time is be a positive light in society?”

In a role reversal, this time it’s Maria who’s seeing the bright side — that they could help other people with their story.

“We both graduated from Stanford,” she says. “We both have graduate degrees, have financial resources, and still there were so many barriers to the process. We’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars. We’ve misfiled our own paperwork. He’s had a lapse in his work permit. So to us, at this point, it’s almost unimaginable that people that haven’t had all of the privileges that we’ve had could navigate this system with any chance of being successful.”

Next year, the Wusus will be moving back to Palo Alto. He’s accepted a sports medicine fellowship at Stanford.

“Yeah, I’m coming back,” he says. “I’ll be taking care of the football team. It’s like a full circle.”

Or, you might say, the circle of life.

Liz Gannes is a reporter with our partner 60db, a personalized audio service and app.

How DACA Helped This Future Stanford Football Doctor 10 October,2017KQED News Staff

  • Skip Conrad

    Wow, so there are many people out there who think they are citizens, but they’re not. Are any of them voting? You betcha. And Alex Padilla claims there is no voter fraud in California.

  • Curious

    Illegals are a huge drain on the country- economically and socially. They must be deported.

    • Kurt thialfad

      What is disturbing, is that an illegal immigrant parent would actuslly lie to his child. I thought these people were of the highest regions of integrity, honesty, and morality. At least that’s what we’re told.

    • akiddoc

      Not true. They do the jobs that Americans refuse and their children are less likely to be on welfare as adults than the general American population.

      • Curious

        Among the findings:

        An estimated 49 percent of households headed by legal immigrants used one or more welfare programs in 2012, compared to 30 percent of households headed by natives.
        Households headed by legal immigrants have higher use rates than native households overall and for cash programs (14 percent vs. 10 percent), food programs (36 percent vs. 22 percent), and Medicaid (39 percent vs. 23 percent). Use of housing programs is similar.
        Legal immigrant households account for three-quarters of all immigrant households accessing one or more welfare programs.
        Less-educated legal immigrants make extensive use of every type of welfare program, including cash, food, Medicaid, and housing.
        The overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants have modest levels of education; therefore, the high use of welfare associated with less-educated legal immigrants indicates that legalization would likely increase welfare costs, particularly for cash and housing programs.
        Restrictions on new legal immigrants’ access to welfare have not prevented them from accessing programs at high rates because restrictions often apply to only a modest share of immigrants at any one time, some programs are not restricted, there are numerous exceptions and exemptions, and some provisions are entirely unenforced. Equally important, immigrants, including those illegally in the country, can receive welfare on behalf of their U.S.-born children.

  • Curious

    DACA helped these “Dreamers” too:

    SEATTLE – A 23-year-old DREAMer in Washington state is accused of brutally raping a 19-year-old woman in her apartment complex’s gym and leaving her with severe facial injuries — including a broken jaw and dangling ear.

    In 2010, teenager Joshua Wilkerson was gruesomely murdered by a Dreamer in Houston, Texas.

    When Joshua Wilkerson gave Dreamer Hermilo Moralez a ride home from school in November of 2010, the immigrant punched him in the face, causing Wilkerson instant blindness, and then kneed him so hard that it forced Wilkerson’s spleen into his spine. Moralez then beat the teen with a curtain rod, doused Wilkerson’s tied-up dead body in gasoline, and set the teen on fire.

    In January, Dreamer Carlos Ruben Rodriguez was charged with murdering 24-year-old mother Kelsey Engelsen in Naples, Florida.
    In 2008, 17-year-old Los Angeles High School football star Jamiel Shaw II was murdered in cold blood by gang member and Dreamer Pedro Espinoza.

    In 2013, a Dreamer ran over two little girls, stepsisters Anna Dieter-Eckerdt, 6, and Abigail Robinson, 11, while they were playing in a leaf pile.
    Dreamer Cinthya Garcia-Cisneros ran over step-sisters Anna, 6, and Abigail, 11, in 2013, who were playing in a pile of leaves in the road, killing them both. Garcia-Cisneros then drove straight to an auto car wash in what the court ruled was an attempt to wash the evidence from her SUV.

    Juan Manuel Martinez, 19, will soon become one of a few DACA recipients who will be deported back to his native country after run-ins with the law, Breitbart Texas reported in May.

    Earlier this year, Martinez was arrested for drug possession after Monterey County sheriff’s deputies found meth and marijuana in his vehicle. Martinez was also charged with trespassing, which he later pleaded no contest to.

  • Curious

    U.S. Taxpayers Have Spent More Than $80 Billion on ‘Dreamers’

    K-12 education, WIC, Medicaid for illegal immigrants brought as children adds up to large price tag.

  • Curious

    Diana Martinez-Gonzalez was an 11th grader from Greenville County, South Carolina whose life was cut short last Wednesday when Daniel de Jesus Rangel-Sherrer allegedly drove her into the woods and murdered her.

    “This was going to be Diana’s senior year,” says Pamela Dunlap, a Greenville High teacher who taught Diana for the last two years. “She came to school with a new determination and focus. She was working hard to recover credits and graduate with her class.”

    Greenville County Sheriff’s Office’s master deputy Ryan Flood indicated in a press conference that Diana’s alleged killer, 19-year-old Sherrer, confessed “immediately” to a deputy upon being arrested. Sherrer allegedly told police that he drove the 18-year-old into the woods and shot her in the head after the two got into an argument. In discussions with police subsequent to his arrest, Sherrer reportedly stated that he was angry with the victim because she had been spreading false rumors about him.

    WSPA News reports that investigators said Sherrer also held another victim against her will, but that she was able to escape. Sherrer is currently charged with murder, kidnapping and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.

    The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have confirmed that Sherrer was in the country illegally. The coroner’s office found that the victim had been shot in the head multiple times.

    • akiddoc

      Has nothing to do with anything. The crime rate among illegals is lower than among American citizens.

      • hmm..What Now?

        Nope, LEGAL immigrants have lower crime rate. Don’t conflate the two.

  • jurgispilis

    DACA was never supposedly to provide a path, yet this dude is on a path to citizenship. Some obody lied.

  • Curious

    “It wasn’t until he was 23 that Wusu found out he was undocumented.”

    Not possible.

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