HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — As campaigns intensify during the final days of the midterm elections, a refugee shared her unique perspective on what it means to be an American.
Rebecca Deng was born in a village in what is now South Sudan, but now she is an American citizen living in Holland. The journey that brought her to the United States 17 years ago was a difficult one.
Her village had not felt effects of the Sudanese Civil War, but one day it was attacked. Her mother could not get away to safety because she was in labor. Soldiers burned down the entire village, leaving the villagers with nothing.
Deng lost her mother after the attack and her father was killed while fighting to liberate the country. She was forced to travel with her uncle's family to a refugee camp in Kenya, where food and infrastructure were scarce.
"The opinion of the local people was that we were coming in to take their land or something. There were no police you could call if you were attacked,” Deng said.
She said there were all kinds of trauma and abuse that happened at the camp. Deng spent eight years there, eventually applying for refugee status in the U.S. The application process, which included interviews and background checks, took about a year.
"Something happened in the refugee camp three days before I left. Four months after I arrived (in Holland), we found out I was pregnant", Deng explained.
She didn't tell anyone about what happened, saying it was too traumatic. She figured she would never see that place again.
"I was going to a new country, going to start my life over. Little did I know that I was carrying the consequences of what happened," she said.