Seeking Asylum in Trump’s America

I am writing this article while sitting atop of my makeshift bed, while everything I own is on the floor around me organized into assorted piles.

Assembling my bed was simple enough: two borrowed futons stacked on top of one another, dressed up in a couple of comforters and a blanket to add layers, all in an effort to make it comfortable, and to make it feel and smell like an actual bed. Still, my morning ritual lately has been waking up and untying the knots that have formed in my back and neck. Strangely, I have begun to look forward to that ritual as I addictively daydream myself to sleep every night.

Throughout the day, I have to keep telling myself that I am strong and in control of my life, that I will soon turn the piles of belongings on the floor of my room into a bed, a desk, a dresser. I will soon be able to turn the seemingly random meaningful and meaningless events of my life into an architect, a lawyer, a career, a purpose. I think of a time in the future when I will be able to reminiscently look back at the situation I was in and claim that it was the making of me.

Then, reality hits back, and it hits back really hard.

That is, I am not in a position to think too ahead into the future. I am at a point in my journey where I can think in six month intervals at the maximum. In six months, I will find out if I get to stay in this country or get deported back to Lebanon.

In less than a month, however, I will find out if I get to keep living in this room or will I be too broke to make rent. From the future me’s perspective, it is an interesting and character building conflict within a conflict that I had to deal with when I was a young ‘migrant.’

From the perspective of my present self, however, it is an overwhelming set of dire possibilities that I will have to navigate pretty soon. Nevertheless, I must remain hopeful and pragmatic, because getting here was no easy task.

Alright, enough with the cryptic mediocre diary-esque composition for now. I need to be as non-enigmatic as possible for this next section, for the sanity of myself and those reading this.

The reason I am here is because I am a political asylum seeker. I have to convince the United States government that I have a credible fear of persecution back in my home country of Lebanon. My only way out of Lebanon, a country where political and religious dissidence are met with hostility by the many paramilitary organizations there, was to come to New Mexico as a student.

A little more than a week ago, the lawyer in charge of my asylum application informed me that I have to get to northern California as soon as possible, because the chances of getting my asylum application processed and accepted are much better there. After two years of living in New Mexico, making friends and connections there, and barely scraping by, I was forced pack all my belongings in my best friend’s car and make the two day drive down here. Now, I find myself in a new city, knowing very few people, having very little money, using my friend’s suitcase as a desk, and scrambling to find a job.

But, geographically speaking, I am where I need to be, and that’s what is most important. For this reason, when I say getting here was no easy task, I say it from a place of gratitude.

I know that there are thousands of people who would give anything to be in my position right now, and there are thousands more who have died trying to be in my position. My lawyer tells me that I have a better chance than most of being welcomed here by the immigration agencies because of my ability to speak English fluently, and because I appear to be acclimated to American culture. And in my opinion, that is the saddest part about all of this.

The fact that I may be competing against someone who might need this place in line more than I do. Because I was privileged enough to learn English at and watch American TV at a young age, I may end up having the upper hand on someone who truly needs to be here too. Ultimately, though, feeling guilty for wanting to live in peace and dignity gets way too depressing. To the duty of surviving, you do your best to shrug off that little hint of survivor’s guilt, and you carry on.

What I am hoping is that this attempt at hastily chronicling one migratory experience, albeit a somewhat vanilla one, will cast one explanatory light at the plight of being a migrant. Admittedly, that is a plight that I am yet to understand and experience fully. Additionally, in the current political climate, and the corresponding anti-immigrant rhetoric, immigrant voices are being drowned out by the voices of outside commentators, observers, and decision makers. As to how do we stop that from happening, I do not have an answer. For now, my voice will tell my story even if nobody listens but me.

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