Ahmad Al Atrash does not like to be called a refugee. To him, a Syrian who fled a brutal civil war in his country, that word is loaded with negative connotations, and separates him from the community that has now become his home: Chicago. Six months ago, he and his family resettled there. I recently had the chance to discuss with him his thoughts on the crisis in Syria, his experiences at a refugee camp in Jordan, his journey to the United States, and his hopes for his family and children.
The family is sitting around the dinner table, the tree is about to be decorated, and the U.S. is officially entering holiday season. Sadly, for Syrian refugees around the world, this season does not bring such excitment. The winter weather presents a special challenge to displaced refugees living in surrounding countries. Frigid winds, tumultuous rain, and precipitating snow hit the refugee camps in countries such as Lebanon and Jordan, increasing the chance of illness and death.
Sameer, a pseudonym, is considered an “emerging leader” among the 7,000 Syrian Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders in the United States today. In the last seven years, Sameer attained an MBA, passed the U.S. pharmaceutical exam, had three children, and obtained TPS for him and his family. Sameer did all of this while trying to keep his family safe, healthy, and free.
Oscar, a pseudonym, is one of 7,000 Syrian Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders living in the United States. Oscar graduated as a medical doctor in the Middle East and came to the U.S. in 2011 for an observership, a program for international medical graduates. Soon after he arrived, the uprising began in Syria. He found himself stuck in the U.S., as his family told him not to return to Syria because his home town was being heavily attacked. Oscar waited and eventually applied for TPS.
Imagine a highly rated doctor who does everything for his patients. He provides top quality care to each person that comes to his office. This doctor helps not only his patients but improves the lives of his community and specific industry. He gives so much to a country he fought hard to be in. He respects the laws, pays his taxes, and contributes in many ways to this country. Now imagine that this model-citizen was told you cannot work, you cannot get access to your bank accounts, you can no longer drive, and you may be forced to leave this country?