My Path To Asylum

My name is Boureima. I am from Niger (West Africa). I’m 20 years old and I’m in my second year at Oakton Community College. I came to the U.S. in August 2016, and to Viator House in April 2017.

My first day at Viator House was one of the best days in my life.

As a young man, I was 17 when I came to the U.S. border at Tijuana, Mexico, and asked for asylum. The Border Patrol sent me to a juvenile immigration detention center in Chicago, where I spent almost eight months in detention.

While I was in detention my prayer for every single day was just to be a free man one day. Being in a detention center without freedom was one of the hardest things I had faced in my life. There are rules for everything. You can’t leave or even go outside without a staff person.

My 18th Birthday Gift – Viator House

April 13, 2017, was my 18th birthday. The day before my birthday, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) approved my release to Viator House, which meant I was a free man from detention. I was released the same day in the evening to start my new life at Viator House.

The night I came to Viator House they already had five other participants, and three of them I knew from the detention center. That same night they welcomed me to my new home, and they told me to feel like I was at home. Viator House gave me my own room.

The next day I met with my case manager, Sr. Rayo. She told me the rules of the house and Br. Michael took me shopping for some clothes.

A Dream Come True – – Going To School Again

The day I left my home in Niger I never thought that I would be able to go back to school again. But at Viator House I had the chance to go back to school and earn my high school diploma. The school I was going to was almost two hours away from Viator House. But because I was so hungry to get my high school diploma, I did not give up going to school.

I made the journey from Viator House to Truman Middle College in Chicago for a year and a half.  During that time I had three tutors that always helped me with my homework and taught me more English. After I graduated from high school in 2018, I started taking classes at Oakton Community College.

While I was doing all those things – going to school, learning English and making the two-hour journey every single day –  I was still waiting for my asylum case to be called. I had been in the country since 2016, but I didn’t have my asylum interview until early 2020. To me it seemed like it took forever before my case got called.

Waiting For Asylum – – A Long Road

I was so frustrated and confused while I was waiting for my case to be called. At some points I was about to give up. But because of the people at Viator House who were surrounding and supporting me and kept telling me to not give up, I always pushed hard and always kept in my mind the hope that the best day would come. At one point I had a hard time focusing on everything that I was doing. I had a lot of appointments with my lawyer that I didn’t want to go to because I was so tired of the process. But I still went.

Finally, I received the letter from immigration on December 23, 2019, that said I am scheduled for an asylum interview on January 7, 2020. It was unbelievable. I felt so much emotion that day. I couldn’t believe that the mail that I had been waiting so many years for was finally here.

I had the interview on January 7. Two weeks later I was back in school when I received an email from my lawyer right after I got inside the classroom. It said that the U.S. had granted me asylum. I was like “No Way!”  I was not expecting anything that week. But, finally, all the hard work that I had been doing paid off.

My Prayers Are Answered

I am so proud. Words cannot describe my feelings. I just want to say “Thank You” to all the people who have been praying and supporting me during this journey – my mentor, my tutors, the volunteer drivers, my case manager, all the Viator House staff. And I wish all the best to my fellow brothers at Viator House who are still waiting.