I’m a community advocate, husband, and father of five lovely children. I came to the United States as a refugee from Sierra Leone nine years ago. My family and I were forced to leave everything behind after armed rebels attacked my hometown. It was a violence-laden day, filled with unspeakable horror and tragedy.
My beloved dad and younger sister were killed, five of my childhood friends’ hands were amputated, a portion of my hand was almost cut off, and I got shot in my left leg. My family’s house was set on fire with my mom, brothers, and other relatives inside. My mum survived the horror through an escape route on the basement, but unfortunately, my 7-year-old baby sister was burned alive.
Recently, I reflected on my sad journey as the Trump Administration slashed the refugee resettlement program, the program I came through, to 30,000, the lowest in U.S. history. As someone who understands the struggles of refugees firsthand, I am disheartened to see that my beloved new home is denying that same opportunity to others now facing similarly dangerous situations.
As with many refugees, I would have preferred to remain in my homeland. However, due to constant fear of persecution and the brutal war that took away my loved ones, I had no other choice but to leave. After experiencing such sufferings, I faced other post-resettlement challenges, such as dealing with discrimination, learning a new language, way of life, and culture. What made the biggest difference in overcoming these hardships — and in healing from past traumas — has been the welcome received when I joined my new community, Baton Rouge.
I always viewed America as a beacon of hope. The executive orders banning Muslim immigrants and worst of all, slashing the resettlement program to the lowest in U.S. history, do not reflect that. In fact, they completely contradict the values America stands for: compassion, welcome, and resilience. The United States is a country where anyone should be able to pursue the American dream and live in safety.
I continue now to believe in the importance of welcoming others — for others have welcomed my family. I seek myself to welcome other refugees who are new arrivals. I raise my voice to support the rights of refugees through my work as president of the Louisiana Organization for Refugees and Immigrants and in my capacity as Louisiana state delegate at the Refugee Congress.
There is a sense of hope finding a home brings, and I urge our local leaders, state legislators, and national policymakers to stand with refugees — today and every day. Only then will we truly reflect the welcome our country stands for.
If you read my story and feel compassion, please turn your compassion into action and join LORI, welcoming Network Initiative to make our beloved city Baton Rouge a welcoming city. Together, we can inspire welcome across the country and around the world.
May 12, 2023
For Immediate Release:
Statement on the End of Title 42
Today marks a significant moment for migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers in the United States as the white supremacist and Trump-era policy, Title 42, finally comes to an end. The Louisiana Organization for Immigrants and Refugees (LORI) welcomes the news and recognizes the three years of advocacy and legal battles that led to this momentous decision.
As Marcela Hernandez, Program and Organizing Manager at LORI, stated, “Today, as we celebrate the end of Title 42, a policy that violated human rights, enforced selfishness, hate and injustice, I remind you that the ultimate goal is far from over. We have to continue moving forward and create humane policies that protect those in the most vulnerable situations. Let’s continue working together to evoke a sense of urgency to protect and promote equal opportunities for all.”
Title 42 was introduced in March 2020 under the guise of a public health measure in response to Covid-19, but it allowed for the rapid expulsion of more than 2 million asylum seekers without due process. UndocuBlack and partner organizations have consistently raised concerns over the illegality and immorality of Title 42. From its inception, it was clear that the policy was not motivated by a concern for public health but rather a political play to continue to keep Black and Brown asylum seekers out of the country. As evidenced by the over 200 deportation flights sent to Haiti, this deadly policy was successful in its intent, with a disproportionate impact on Black migrants.
LORI recognizes the importance of protecting public health during a global pandemic. However, it is essential to uphold the values of this nation and not compromise the rights and dignity of vulnerable people seeking refuge. Title 42 denied fundamental human rights to those in need, causing immense harm and suffering to countless families and individuals seeking protection in the United States. As we face the worst displacement crisis since World War II, the United States must create safe and equitable pathways for families and individuals seeking protection.
The House Republican Border Package was recently passed but fails to address the underlying issues of immigration and border security. Extending Title 42 disregards asylum seekers’ rights, and the emphasis on increased funding for enforcement and physical barriers overlooks the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
Sharon Njie, a Refugee Congress Louisiana Delegate and LORI’s Communications and Strategic Partnership Director, recognizes the significance of the end of Title 42 but raises concerns about the emergence of other hardline policies that deny asylum seekers the right to safety. She states, “The end of T42 might be the end of an era, to be celebrated yet another hardline policy that denies asylum seekers the right to safety arises. This is bothersome and contrary to promises made by the Biden administration.” It is crucial to recognize that while the end of Title 42 is a cause for celebration, much work is to be done to create change and humane policies that protect and promote equal opportunities for all.
“LORI urges the Biden Administration to uphold its humanitarian obligations and work towards creating a fair and just immigration system that respects the dignity and rights of all individuals, irrespective of their race or ethnicity. We call on the government to prioritize humanitarian aid, legal resources, and diplomatic efforts to address the root causes of migration and uphold human rights The end of Title 42 is a step in the right direction, but we must also ensure that any alternative policy is humane and consistent with our nation’s values.” Dauda Sesay, Founder, and Executive Director of LORI.