Like many people, I used to think President Trump was exaggerating the situation at the southern border. Then I learned my application for asylum was being delayed to preference people deliberately breaking U.S. laws.
By Mahir Ahmed
MAY 20, 2019
Like many immigrants, I came to the United States through legal means to obtain an undergraduate degree in engineering. I have been paying taxes ever since, from school jobs to internships to post-grad jobs. In fact, the United States was the first country to ever grant me work authorization, something I believed to be a privilege considering I was on a temporary student visa.
Everything was going well for me until I decided to leave Islam. Coming from a community that is virtually 100 percent Muslim, I knew I could never go back to my home country afterward. My decision to leave and criticize Islam publicly forced me to resort to asylum.
Once my attorney and I filed my asylum case, everything went well in the beginning. Within 45 days, I had my biometric services appointment (where you get your photo and fingerprints taken) and my interview scheduled. The interview was thorough and I was confident that the officer did a great job gathering all the facts he needed to help him reach a decision. At the end of my interview, the asylum officer gave me a decision pick-up notice and instructed me to come back in exactly two weeks to pick up my decision.
You can imagine how thrilled I was knowing that no matter what the decision was, it would all be over within two months of filing. No more worrying, wondering, and being in limbo. I was counting the days, until I received a phone call the following week informing me that a decision would not be made by the specified date, and sent in the mail whenever it is made.
It took me a few seconds to gather myself and ask when I should expect a decision. I was told they have no idea when and that the fact that I had legal status might be a factor in the delay since priority is being given to illegal immigrants.
I couldn’t believe that illegal immigrants would be given higher priority than someone who followed the law. It just seemed unfair to me that jumping in line would put you ahead. Hoping that the asylum office employee was mistaken, I went through United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) website. It indeed stated that longer processing times might be required if an applicant has legal status.
Realizing I had no choice but to wait, I kept checking my mail daily and calling the asylum office at least once a month, until I gained the ability to check my case status online. Since then, checking my status has been the very first thing I do every single morning. It has now been more than seven months.
My personal experience, which might disqualify me from being objective to some, made me dig into illegal immigration and its effects on the country in general, and on legal immigration in particular. If you had asked me two years ago, I wouldn’t have cared for the border wall debate, or even known enough to form and articulate my position on the matter. Like many people, I used to think that President Trump was exaggerating the situation at the southern border.
Unfortunately, it took me, a legal alien, being personally affected by illegal immigration to look at the data and realize that there is indeed a crisis at the southern border. The crisis is affecting both the American people and those who take the right, legal steps, and wait their turn to come to the United States.
Since I filed my case, about 460,000 illegal crossings took place. The vast majority of the crossers claimed asylum and basically got priority processing over everyone who filed their cases legally, myself included. If you don’t think there is a problem here at all, you must be living in a mental utopia, or are just too distant to see the direct effects of this crisis, as I once was.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against honest Central Americans fleeing persecution in their home countries to claim asylum. I sympathize with their position and my case is not any more important than theirs. However, if they know they have a legitimate asylum case, they should file for asylum legally at a port of entry, as some do, instead of illegally crossing the border first to undermine the system in place.
That is exactly why I’m for the border wall. True asylum seekers will still be able to file for asylum at the ports of entry, maybe even in their home countries soon, if Sen. Lindsey Graham’s new asylum law package is implemented. A wall can significantly lower, if not eliminate, illegal crossings, especially when coupled with recommended, location-specific operational tactics. It would discourage economic migrants from making the dangerous trip, and it would certainly gut the smuggling business in the region.
A wall would also help U.S. Customs and Border Protection operate much more efficiently by concentrating manpower in areas where physical barriers would be limited, such as the Rio Grande River. Finally, and most importantly, a wall would save taxpayers money in the long run.
Mahir Ahmed is an Ethiopian ex-Muslim, currently residing in the United States. He holds a bachelor of science degree in manufacturing engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. You can follow him on Twitter @MahirAbramo.