Public Radio International posted a glowing puff-piece yesterday about how the burgeoning Rohingya population in the Chicago area is now well established and members of the ‘community’ are becoming US citizens.
The article features one man in particular, but it is generally informative and gives me an opportunity to remind readers that there is no Trump Muslim ban. Certain countries might be temporarily excluded from sending refugees to America, but that prohibition does not extend to the Rohingya.
The Rohingya are strict adherents to Islam and are unwelcome in Burma and their original home in Bangladesh. For ambitious readers, I have been writing about them for over a decade and have archived over 200 posts in my category entitled, Rohingya Reports. (So glad to have all that material back!)
When I first began following the Rohingya, the US State Department had banned them from resettlement here.
Not so today!
Here is PRI with its fawning report:
What it’s like to become a US citizen after a lifetime of statelessness
Zakaria’s [Nasir Zakaria, the star of the story] path to US citizenship included years of hard work supporting his community. Three years ago he founded Chicago’s Rohingya Cultural Center, a community space on the city’s northwest side that has become a hub for some 1,600 Rohingya refugees who have settled in the area over the past decade. The center offers English lessons, Quran classes, cultural events and after-school homework help for children.
(I told readers about the founding of the Rohingya Cultural Center, here, in 2016.)
The center also offers citizenship classes, which gives adults English-language skills and an overview of US history, politics and civics knowledge. The classes help them pass their naturalization interviews with US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees have been resettled to the US in the past five years, the majority of them between 2015 and 2016, according to State Department statistics.
The Trump administration has made steep cuts to refugee admissions in recent years. As more and more of Rohingya approach the five-year mark of permanent residency in the US, they are becoming eligible to apply for citizenship. Zakaria was among the first from the Chicago community to be naturalized.
Zakaria founded the Rohingya Cultural Center in 2016 with financial backing from the Zakat Foundation of America, an Islamic nonprofit based in Chicago. It’s often the first place local Rohingya refugees turn when they need help deciphering a cable bill, job application or letter from a government agency.
The idea for the center stemmed from his own experience acclimating to life in the United States.
Zakaria had already been granted refugee status in Malaysia, a safe Muslim country.
Is it America’s duty to give employment and public services to the world?
Zakaria fled Myanmar alone as a teen, he said, to escape capture by the country’s armed forces. He lived in Bangladesh, then Malaysia, where he was granted refugee status. But like other Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, he did not have access to public services, education or legal employment.
It would be another two decades before he was resettled to the United States in 2013, along with his wife, Laila Binti Mohamad Husan, and his grandfather. They were sent to live in Chicago. Zakaria and his wife now have three children.
On the way out, he picked up a voter registration form.