Refugee Leaders Take on Capitol Hill

May 17, 2019

Last week, approximately 70 former refugees from across the country traveled to DC to advocate for refugee resettlement with their representatives in Congress along with CWS advocates as part of Refugee Council USA’s (RCUSA) Advocacy Days. Some of these refugees spoke to reporters at a breakfast briefing, as they prepared to urge their Members of Congress to rebuild the life-saving refugee resettlement program by ensuring that the administration resettles all 30,000 refugees allocated for FY 19 and demand an increase in the refugee ceiling for FY 20.

Here is what some of the leaders had to say:

Basma Alawee, former refugee from Iraq who lives in Atlantic Beach, FL:

“After miscommunication between Iraqis and the US army resulted in deaths, including my uncle, we decided to help the troops. But because of that, we had to leave the country and escape. There are a lot of hidden stories that should be shared. I have been organizing in Florida to help refugees to share their and lobby against bills that would harm their community.”


Nasser Alsaadun, former refugee from Iraq who served the U.S. and UK militaries as an interpreter before being resettled in Harrisonburg, VA:

“I’m here to show others that refugees are not people that rely on others. We are productive and can build ourselves and be part of the nation, from our businesses to our education to our culture.”


Tecle Gebremicheal, former refugee from Ethiopia who lives in Boise, ID:

“I don’t think our elected officials know our real stories. They don’t receive information that refugees are joining the army, the police, etc. I’m the first refugee and Black person running for City Council in Boise Idaho. Our community and country’s strength comes from being welcoming.”


Deborah Baliraine Jane, a former refugee from Uganda, who lives in Columbus, OH:

“Today, I’m advocating to make sure I can reunite with my children. They are going through a lot being isolated from me. Telling my story is very hard. But I want people to know what we go through and the difficult decision we have to make.”


Zaid Alibadi and Marwa Khamas, former refugees from Iraq where Zaid worked for three years with the U.S. Army and embassy in Baghdad. The live in West Columbia, SC:

“Supporting refugees is not only for humanitarian interest but self interest of the U.S. as well. America is going to be in the Middle East for a while, and we need allies. If they stop resettling refugees, no one will work with them on the ground. We need to know someone has our back.”


Drocella Mugorewera, former refugee from Rwanda who lives in Knoxville, TN:

“I’m here because I want to make Congress aware that we help this country be great. I was a government official before I fled, and I came here for security reasons. I want to let them know that I went through a screening process, even though I used to come to the U.S. as a diplomat. Screenings expire and people don’t know if their relatives will follow. I didn’t see my children for two years.”


Mustafa Nuur, a former refugee from Somalia who lives in Lancaster, PA:

“I arrived to the U.S. in 2014, after almost a decade in a refugee camp. Some families stayed 16-17 years. There are so many Mustafas out there in the world who are stuck in a refugee camp like I was because of the resettlement process. I share my story because the more people know about you, the less likely they are to hate you. I’m here because I want to be a voice for my friends, and I hope Members of Congress increase the resettlement numbers or at least meet the numbers they said they would.”


Dauda Sesay, former refugee from Sierra Leone who lives in Baton Rouge, LA:

“It took 9 years for me to go through the U.S. vetting process to leave the refugee camp. It was the worst place, as there wasn’t even privacy to take a bath. This is a life saving program, and the U.S. vetting process is the best. There is no act of terrorism committed by a refugee. The statistics are out there.”

Refugee Council USA (RCUSA), a coalition of 25 U.S.-based non-governmental organizations, is dedicated to refugee protection, welcome, and excellence in the U.S. refugee resettlement program.