I find myself constantly worn down by the word “deport,” and I believe that everyone should feel the weight of its implications, particularly in a country that prides itself on diversity and inclusion.

Each time I believe I’m settling into my life in this adopted land, this word surfaces, casting a shadow over my sense of belonging. It serves as a stark reminder of the prevailing sentiment among many Americans that immigrants who don’t conform to certain expectations should be summarily sent back to wherever they came from.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth and can be contacted at noriftin@gmail.com.

I’ve been invited to various rallies and marches – whether they focus on support for Palestine, abortion rights, or asylum seekers, immigration and refugee issues – but I often find myself hesitating to attend. The fear of drawing unwanted attention, of facing potential arrest or backlash, holds me back from fully participating in the civic life of this nation. And it is often common for immigrants like myself who fought hard to get here in the United States to avoid trouble at any cost.

As a naturalized American citizen, I am keenly aware of the conditions that could lead to our denaturalization, including running for public office in our country of origin, serving in a foreign military or committing certain crimes within the U.S. I know this because I take my naturalization seriously. What many fail to understand is that the vast majority of us who took the oath of allegiance to the United States do so with a deep commitment and loyalty. To have our allegiance questioned, to be threatened with deportation, is not only hurtful but undermines the very essence of the American dream that we’ve pursued and embraced.

It’s a shared experience among immigrants to encounter the term “deport” coming from those born in the U.S., often from people who don’t fully grasp the complexities of our journeys to citizenship. Yet, despite our education level, our involvement in U.S. politics and our contributions to society, we immigrants remain vulnerable to the threat of deportation. We are ineligible for the office of the United States presidency, which only native-born Americans can hold; the painful memories of the unfounded controversy over President Obama’s birthplace, with accusations of “he’s not American” and “send him back to Kenya,” continue to resonate.

For those of us with names that don’t sound European, expressing our opinions on social media can invite comments suggesting that we return to our countries of origin if we’re unhappy here. Even worse, when people discover my nationality, I’m sometimes unfairly associated with figures like Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Despite having differing views on various issues – just as I might with any American politician – I’ve been told, “You and Ilhan should go back to Somalia.” I am not represented by Ilhan Omar, I am represented by our elected officials from Maine.


This mindset is not only disheartening, but also deeply unsettling. What assumptions are being made about us? Are we automatically associated with Islamophobia, terrorism or anti-American sentiments? It’s emotionally draining to feel perpetually on the defensive, constantly questioned about our right to belong in a country we now call home.

While I proudly fly the U.S. flag at my home here in Yarmouth as a symbol of my commitment to this nation, it’s disheartening to know that there are millions in this country who think I don’t fully belong and that the stars and stripes do not represent me.

My patriotism is expressed in my daily life. I work  hard, pay taxes and contribute to my community. On social media, I proudly showcase America’s natural beauty – from its majestic mountains and serene lakes to the picturesque Maine coast and iconic barns. I strive to make a positive impact.

Every immigrant who has endured the grueling refugee resettlement process, learned English, pursued higher education and built a life here is a patriot.

I want anyone reading this piece to understand that love for this country should not be limited by nationality or background. To those who shout “deport,” know this: We are here to stay.

Comments are not available on this story.