The Second Congo War – one of the deadliest conflicts in recent history – forced thousands of people from their homes, including Chrisper. He was just 17 years old when he fled the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1999 and started a new life by himself in the Nyragusu Refugee Camp in Tanzania. There he finished school and began working for Doctors Without Borders and as a sports coach. It was in Nyragusu that Chrisper also met his wife, fell in love and began a family.
After 13 years of waiting, in 2012 Chrisper and his family were approved for refugee resettlement. The process was long and complicated, starting with a selection process and interview to check if they were eligible. Eventually, he found out that his family had been selected to resettle in the U.S., “I was happy, but scared because it is a completely new place from what I know, with a different time, culture and temperature,” he said.
The United States selects refugees based on vulnerability and those chosen to resettle here must first go through a 13 step screening process, which includes seven steps of security and involves the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and State Department. This process often lasts two years or longer; for Chrisper the wait was finally over in 2016 when the IRC in Atlanta welcomed his family to their new home.
After their first year of life in America, Chrisper and his family met with the IRC’s Immigration Team to adjust their status and apply for their green cards – a process he said was much simpler than his resettlement screening. Refugees enter the U.S. legally ready to work and on a path to citizenship, which involves becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident – or “green card holder” – after one year in U.S. Seven months after his appointment, Chrisper received his green card. Reflecting on this important step in his journey, he said, “I am happy because now I am free. I have security here and now I can go and travel and visit my family members in Canada.” Chrisper is looking forward to applying for citizenship in the future and will be eligible to do so after approximately five years of living in the U.S.
To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Development Manager, Kalie Lasiter, at Kalie.Lasiter [at] Rescue.org or 678-636-8941.