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The Story After the Story for a 16-Year-Old Refugee With Dashed Hopes

But then this young man did something about which I still shake my head and chuckle: He decided to get on the airplane anyway.

Samie’s “mad dash” to America played out over a 24-hour period during which he and I kept in touch by phone and instant messages as he drove to the airport in Jakarta, updated me from a transit lounge in Taipei and, finally, called me from a motel room near Los Angeles International Airport.

Each leg of the way must have been terrifying for him — it certainly was agonizing for me.

What if the Indonesian authorities stopped him from boarding the plane, or Taiwanese authorities detained him in transit? Would they deport him back to Afghanistan instead of Indonesia? Or would he end up in an airport lockup in Los Angeles?

These fears consumed me as I waited throughout the day for a message from Samie, or for the phone to ring with his face and phone number on the screen. I started feeling physically ill as the day wore on, and actually had to lie down for 30 minutes because I thought I was going to either faint or vomit.

I finally got the call the next day: Samie had arrived in Los Angeles and been admitted into the country. He had already been approved for settlement so he wasn’t turned away. The next day, he flew to his new home in Washington State to start the next chapter in a life that has seen a lot in only 16 years. I am not going to disclose which city for security reasons, and to protect his privacy.

The uncertainties that dogged him for so long still remain.

He is currently living in a boardinghouse reserved for refugees who are minors, run by a nonprofit aid organization. He had wanted to be resettled with an American family, in hopes of regaining what he lost in that bomb blast in Afghanistan. But that didn’t happen, and it’s unknown if it will. In our last phone call, Samie said he was comfortable in the boardinghouse, had his own room, had made friends with other refugees there, and was hoping to resume schooling or some kind of vocational training.

But he also said that he was bored out of his mind, with nothing to do. He asked if I knew a family who might take him in as a foster son, because he is not sure how he will feel about the boardinghouse a few months from now, after the euphoria of being in the United States wears off.

This made me feel as bad as I did that day in late January. Samie’s “mad dash” to America was brave and awe-inspiring to me. But in so many other ways, his journey toward a new life is only beginning.

Since we first published a story and aired two podcasts about Samie and other refugees in limbo following President Trump’s first executive order, The New York Times has received numerous emails from concerned Americans across the country — and even Canadians — who have offered to make donations to help Samie or adopt him or become his foster parents. This was a pleasant surprise for a journalist who has spent the last 20 years living in Southeast Asia, and it gave me great pride in being an American. I am trying to assist Samie in learning his options for remaining at the boardinghouse or moving in with a foster family. In the meantime, he has asked for privacy as he figures things out, so this will be the last story on him for a while. But I am determined to make sure it is not the last one about this singular young man.

Source: NYT > World

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