Marius, Gurupreet, Aida, Ramlo: Four Refugee Stories

what. have we. become

Marius Kothor, a graduate student at Yale, came to the United States with his family, refugees from Togo. They arrived in February 2000. Being allowed to enter as a refugee saved his life, he says, and more refugees should be allowed to enter:

“[C]oming to the United States as a refugee is the most difficult way to enter this country, because refugees go through a very thorough vetting process.

“I know this because it took my family seven years to be approved for refugee resettlement in the United States after we had to flee political strife in the West African country of Togo. During those seven long years, I lost two brothers to disease and malnutrition. I became ill and bedridden but fought to survive because I did not want my mother to cry again the way she had cried when my brothers died….

We were lucky: Only 1 percent of the millions of refugees around the world will ever receive a lifeline like the one we received.”

Six-year-old Gurupreet Kaur never got that lifeline. The six-year-old Indian girl was found dead in the Arizona desert in June. She and her mother were trying to make it to New York, where Gurupreet’s father is waiting for a decision on his asylum application. 

“While many of the physical dangers faced by immigrants at the southern border are widely known, public attention has focused on the surge of Central Americans. But Customs and Border Protection said they’ve seen a recent rise in crossings by people from many nations, apprehending migrants from 50 countries, including India, China, Bangladesh, Egypt, Romania and Turkey….

“All three were among a religious minority facing persecution ‘from all sides,’ said their lawyer, Gurpal Singh.”  

Aida Andrade Amaya was granted asylum by a U.S. immigration judge after fleeing El Salvador. U.S. immigration authorities put her in jail ten months ago, during her asylum case, when her premature baby was only two months old. She missed that child’s first birthday and first Christmas and is still in jail, still separated from her children, because the prosecutor is appealing the judge’s order of asylum.  

I survived violence in El Salvador. And I can tell you that immigration detention in the US feels similar to the abuse I fled — I’ve felt violated, traumatized, and destroyed while locked away here.

“I was almost done with my asylum case when I was detained — I had even received an employment authorization card and a social security number. I won my asylum case this May, after six months of detention in Yuba County Jail, which has a contract with ICE to imprison immigrants. ….

The government attorney heard countless hours of my testimony explaining why I cannot go back to my country, yet he appealed the immigration judge’s decision and is fighting tooth and nail to keep me detained in a cold cell.”

Ramlo Ali Noor is a Somali refugee, now living in Columbus, Ohio. She has been trying for four years to bring over her three sons, stuck in a refugee camp in Uganda. Her youngest son, 16-year-old Abdulaziz, died of a brain infection on September 22. Now Trump’s new cap on refugee admissions may mean she will never see any of her sons again.

“Noor, 37, fears the window for her two surviving sons to make it into the United States is shrinking….

“The U.S. government plans to slash the refugee ceiling to 18,000, its lowest since the modern refugee program began in 1980. More than half the places for refugees in the 2020 fiscal year are reserved for Iraqis, Central Americans and religious minorities, leaving only 7,500 for everyone else… 

“At the same time – as of this summer – nearly 30,000 refugees had passed resettlement interviews abroad with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Of those, more than 8,800 had been approved for travel, according to a July 2, 2019 State Department report seen by Reuters.”  


About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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