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As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, we take a look at how this issue connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.Our region is home to a unique blend of immigrants who work in all parts of our economy — from high-tech to agriculture. This population already has a deeply-rooted history here. And its ranks are expanding rapidly.Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform address border security, employment verification, guest-worker programs and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.

This Somali man dreams of Seattle. For now, he’s in a refugee camp

Mohamed Rashid Mohamed has lived in Dadaab for more than 20 years. He hopes to move to Seattle, where he has relatives.
Courtesy of Rwaida Gharib
Mohamed Rashid Mohamed has lived in Dadaab for more than 20 years. He hopes to move to Seattle, where he has relatives.

DADAAB REFUGEE CAMP, KENYA — Mohamed Rashid Mohamed has lived in the Dadaab refugee camp for more than two decades. It’s a sprawling desert camp, home to more than 265,000 refugees.

Like most who live in the camp, Mohamed is Somali. And his greatest dream is to move to Seattle where he has family.

But the process is long and difficult. Mohamed, his wife and his children have been in the resettlement process for about six years. And in the wake of Trump’s travel ban, Mohamed says he’s devastated.

“They were vetting us extremely and now we have suffered under the Trump administration,” he said. “We are asking the government of USA to be very kind for us. We are refugees who are peace loving, who have been in this camp for 26 years.”

The travel ban, which prevents people from seven predominantly Muslim countries to come into the U.S., was put on hold by federal judges in Seattle and San Francisco. Now the Trump Administration says it's going to replace and rescind that order.

Meantime, cases like Mohamed's have been put on hold and he says he’s stuck between the Kenyan government, which wants to shut down the Dadaab refugee camp, and the American government that will not take him. He says going home is not an option.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Mohamed Rashid Mohamed and his family at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.", "fid": "133992", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201702/thumbnail_rashid_family.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Courtesy of Rwaida Gharib"}]]“I cannot go back to Somalia. All my properties were taken, my mum was killed there, my two sisters were also killed. They were raped and killed. I’m terrified. If I go there, those who have my properties, they will kill me.”

He and his family are considered among the better off in the camp, because they have family in the states to support them. The camp is split into two groups of people — those who have family who have been resettled and can get by and those who have nobody outside the camp, and often have nothing. That group often runs out of food at the end of each month and must ask the others for help until the next delivery of rations.

But even for Mohamed, life is harsh. They usually have to skip a meal.

But he remains hopeful that he’ll make it to Seattle one day, to join his relatives.

Until then, he’s asking the Trump administration not to close that door to him and so many other hopeful immigrants. 

Year started with KUOW: 2015