One Man's Journey to U.S. Citizenship
“Mahmude” is a new American citizen whose story of courage and survival truly exhibits the long journey from harm to home. Mahmude endured physical and psychological persecution in his West African home country, as a result of his ethnicity and political opinion. After coming to the U.S. in 2002, he was granted political asylum the following year. His poor physical condition (the result of beatings in his home country) and his inability to speak English limited his access to employment and other services. Nonetheless, Mahmude set out to learn English, to seek work, and to reunite with the family he left behind. He was referred to the IRC, which found him a job, petitioned for his children to join him in the U.S., and helped him become a Lawful Permanent Resident.
Motivated by the promise of eventual U.S. citizenship and an opportunity to live without fear of persecution, Mahmude diligently applied himself to learning English and the required U.S. civics and history. His physical condition eventually rendered him unable to work and he began receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). As a non-citizen, however, he lost eligibility for this much-needed benefit in 2010; administrative details made him ineligible to apply for naturalization until 2011. At that time, Mahmude returned to the IRC to obtain assistance with his application for U.S. citizenship and tutoring to help him prepare for the interview. At his interview and examination, he answered every question correctly, completing the English language reading/writing assignments perfectly as well.
However, as a result of Mahmude’s inability to recall details of his life (due to his injuries and psychological trauma), his file contained inconsistencies regarding his marital history and children’s data. The immigration officer was unable to issue a final approval of his application, instead requesting a detailed explanation by Mahmude regarding the data. With the help of his IRC immigration specialist, he was able to draw out all the details of his history and his application was approved.
In late 2011, Mahmude became a proud U.S. citizen, happy to be reunited with his children and able to obtain the support and assistance he needs to survive after years of persecution. He is grateful to the U.S. Government and to the IRC for their roles in helping him thrive in his new homeland.