PANDORA — In 2005, Manuel Bartsch, a young German immigrant from Pandora, was jailed and ordered to be deported. Thirteen years later, the 30-year-old college graduate is still in the area, has his own business, is married and has a son.
At age 10, Bartsch migrated from Esselbach, Germany to Pandora to stay with his step-grandfather, Toby Deal, after the passing of his grandmother, who was his guardian at the time. Bartsch was allowed in the country with a 90-day visa waiver. However, after the visa expired, Deal failed to fill out the necessary forms to ensure that Bartsch would be permitted to stay in the country legally.
This did not become a problem until in 2005 when Bartsch went to Cleveland to attempt to straighten out his residency status. He was taken into custody and jailed for two weeks, awaiting deportation.
After gaining national attention, the case was dropped, and he returned to high school to finish his senior year. After graduation, he went on to Heidelberg University, where he earned a degree in political science with a minor in history.
In 2013, Bartsch applied for the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an American immigration policy enacted by former President Barack Obama that permitted eligible immigrants to stay in America without a legal status with a two-year renewal. Immigrants seeking to gain that status were required to have lived in America since 2007, arriving before age 16 and remaining under 30 as of 2012. Applicants must have earned a diploma or GED and not been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor.
Being granted that status provides approximately 800,000 immigrants access to information and resources formerly out of reach, according to Lynda D. Nyce, Ohio Northern University Assistant VP for Academic Affairs/Director of Global Initiatives. Immigrants granted DACA status can obtain a driver’s license, Social Security card and work permit and can further their education.
“Professors at ONU have said that they we would miss out on talent at our schools and perspectives in the field of study if immigrants were not permitted to attend college,” said Nyce. “We are helping to train people who will train to be providers of their family and workers for their community after college.”
Bartsch would consider himself someone who has not only brought talent and a different perspective to his college experience, but also a man that provides for his family and works to contribute to his community.
He is grateful for the opportunities that DACA has provided him with and is privileged to been able to accomplish as much as he has over past few years.
“DACA has allowed me to create the foundation to start my life,” said Bartsch. “It has allowed me to have a normal productive life.”
One of the doors DACA helped open up for Bartsch is employment, not just in any job, but his own company. As a grocery store liquidator, he is involved in the process of removing all the food from the stores, organizing a bid for the food, and hiring a public auction in Minnesota to sell everything else.
When Bartsch is not working, he is spending his time with his wife, Ashley, and his one-year-old son, Mason, who he said he could not imagine life without.
“I know that he’s going to have the tools for him to become whatever he wants to be because of the country that he is in,” he said. “Being able to see myself in him and watching him grow is priceless. It’s just an amazing experience. I was scared to death going into this, and now I can’t imagine my life without him.”
Even though Bartsch has his wife and son, his family is not complete. Under DACA, he is not permitted to leave the country, which has been an enormous challenge. It has been difficult for him not to be able to visit the country of his birth or to visit his grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s.
“I’ve always wanted to see where I grew up,” he said. “I wanted to see where I came from and see my roots. I don’t know how much longer my grandmother has, and I’ll never know if I’ll be able to see her because she wouldn’t be able to travel here. It’s tough and it definitely has its ups and downs.”
This is one of main reasons why Bartsch plans to obtain citizenship. For now, however, he is not concerned with seeking citizenship because he believes that Congress is deadlocked, making citizenship seem unattainable.
His priorities for now are making sure he does not get in trouble with the law, excelling at work, taking care of his family and ensuring he has all the essential information he needs for renewing his DACA status every two years.
Over the years, Bartsch has promoted equality with advocacy groups like Dream Activist Ohio and the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs, and he plans to continue his work.
“I do try to advocate as much as possible when the opportunity arises,” he said. “I may not be with one organization, but I try to speak out on the matter as much as possible.”
Reach Camri Nelson at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @CamriNews.