Op-EdOpinion

NDABEZITHA: The USA’s $1.75 Trillion Promise to Me

I’m going to save the world, but first we’ll need Congress to deliver on that $1.75 trillion Build Back Better clean energy and social recovery bill. Why? Well, I have been building this country back better for 15 years now, since I arrived here from South Africa on a temporary H2B visa to work for some of the top country clubs in North America.

Name a U.S. president and I’ve probably hosted them … including the last one … and the current one.

Over the course of my life, America always loomed large. While observing the elites’ deep passion for fresh caviar was fascinating, I knew hosting wasn’t my destiny — and with America’s promise of opportunity ringing in my ears, I overstayed my work visa and became the personal assistant to a retired businessman.

I have been building towards my dream — the American Dream — ever since. I was promised that once I obtained a green card, there would be no limit for me in this country.

Well, I did eventually obtain a green card, but for the past eight years, I’ve been asked time and again to further explain why I deserve to keep it. I could name all the humane aspects of why I’m deserving of citizenship, clean air, basic healthcare coverage, family leave, and small-business funding, but to be quite frank, America owes me. America most likely owes you as well.

This fact was made even more apparent last week at the United Nations’ COP26 climate conference where the U.S., my adopted country, pledged to assist South Africa, my mother country, to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The U.S. (along with China and Europe) owes developing countries a great deal for an outsized contribution to global warming, though South Africa is a fine polluter in her own right.

During the economically devastating pandemic, my main source of motivation came from frequent phone calls with my 12-year-old son, Siyabonga, in South Africa. But our calls were frequently interrupted by prevalent Eskom power outages in the country. Eskom is a near-monopoly power company in South Africa, responsible for nearly half the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, run through and through with corruption and unable to meet the demand of the populace.

My frustration pushed me to evaluate what I was fighting towards as a businessman, and so I decided to learn about potential solutions to the issues facing Eskom, learning of the horrors of global warming — including wide-scale climate displacement of people — and cementing my passion for renewable energy.

We are getting closer to the saving the world part now.

Taking advantage of the time that the global pandemic granted, I rehabilitated a long-neglected logistics and renewable energy business, overcoming workforce scarcity, and ushering in a fresh pool of next-generation American workers, with their dreams firmly set on logistics, recycling, and renewables.

My company, Dungeon, LLC, is a start-up logistics company in the renewable energy and conservation space, working with ARCA Recycling, Inc and United Illuminating, a subsidiary of global wind energy leader AvanGrid, Inc., serving the greater Northeast.

I know that members of Congress, across the aisle, see the value in job creation, climate solutions, supply chain growth, and skills building focused in disadvantaged communities. Millions of immigrants, like myself, have invested our all in this country and we are past due for a return on investment. You can’t build back better without front-line workers. Without logistics. Without renewable resources. We are the engine.

Despite media mischaracterization, the myriad budget lines in the Build Back Better bill are indeed connected, and they all come together in my life. The bill must include a pathway to citizenship for immigrant business owners like me — this pathway will result in untold benefits to my citizen employees, neighbors and friends in terms of clean energy opportunities and business growth. And it will pay down on our debt to the world in significant climate solutions. Finally, Congress must also deliver on the many promises of this country for health, safety, prosperity, and liberty.

Build Back Better will provide me a pathway to citizenship, access to small-business funding, logistics industry equipment, and capital for renewable energy. It will allow me to take part in the clean energy transition here and with my son in South Africa. Everything I need to save the world.

Vusimuzi Mbatha Ndabezitha is a small-business owner of Dungeon LLC in Connecticut and member of the UndocuBlack Network, which advocates for Black immigrants.

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