By Zinah Kadhim. Originally from Baghdad, Zinah is a Chicago-based community leader and board chair of the Middle Eastern Immigrant and Refugee Alliance (MIRA).
Leaving your homeland indefinitely — the place where you were born and raised — is always a difficult decision not taken lightly. I left my homeland in Iraq in 2006 because of the dire security situation there, and despite knowing that leaving was the correct and necessary decision, I still find myself nostalgic for the places and people of my childhood. After living in Jordan for eight years, my family had the opportunity to seek asylum in my new home of Chicago, and it was only then that my family felt truly safe and at home again.
I worked with the United Nations and World Health Organization in Jordan, but it took me about eight months to secure work authorization after arriving in the U.S. in 2013. This sudden shift was challenging for me at the time but it ultimately allowed me to reach the position I’m in now as a board chair of the Middle Eastern Immigrant and Refugee Alliance (MIRA) and a community outreach coordinator at Heartland Health Centers. For asylum seekers today, the situation is much more difficult, and it can take years for families to get their papers allowing them to work.
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