President Donald Trump recently announced he would slash the number of refugees allowed into this country to a maximum of 45,000, the lowest number since America’s resettlement program began. As a former refugee, a Somali and now a Maine resident, this decision feels like a rejection of who I am and everything I stand for. But worse, it feels like a rejection of everything America stands for – a country that was founded by immigrants and believed in offering the oppressed a refuge from violence and persecution from its very start.

No one chooses to be a refugee. I never chose to be one. I grew up in Mogadishu, once known as the world’s most dangerous city. The city where I lived was leveled to the ground. Food was scarce. I had to travel miles to get water. I lost a sister to the war and was separated from my family several times, only to reunite with them later.

It was a fight for survival. There was no school, no hospital and no opportunity. Young men of my age had been encouraged to become child soldiers by the militias and warlords. Guns ruled the streets, but I chose not to join them. Rather, I went to the movies every day – a shack with a television. I watched Hollywood movies and fell in love with America. I picked up English from watching movies. I even nicknamed myself “Abdi American.” I thought I had found my future country.

When I was 21, my circumstances became worse. Islamists came to my city. They overtook the militias and imposed Shariah law. They banned movies and music and dictated the way we dressed. They killed people for loving America, or speaking English.

I decided to flee and join my older brother, who had been living in Kenya as a refugee for nine years. Together, we scavenged for food. When a letter from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees made my refugee status official, I joined a half-million Somali refugees who had been forced to flee our homes. Some had been born and raised in refugee camps: Life as a refugee was all they knew.

America was my dreamland;. America, the land of opportunities, the place where I thought I could be equal to everyone else. A country where I believed I would feel welcome and belong. I never gave up. I read about U.S. history. I memorized names of U.S. states and names of presidents. I was proud of every single American president and his administration. I listened to their speeches. I never thought an American president would hurt my feelings. I thought they would make us proud.

Three years ago I was chosen for a visa through the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery (which randomly awards visas to immigrants from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States). But after I received the visa, Kenya was bombed by Somali Islamists and I had to go into hiding after the Kenyan police announced they would deport all Somalis back to Somalia. I risked my life to come out of hiding in order to get the required documents from the U.S. Embassy.

After a year of fighting for the needed paperwork, I was able to get on a flight headed to New England. But I was one of the lucky ones. I got out.

There are now 22 million refugees, and 1.2 million of them need to be resettled into countries around the world in the next year. Just like me, they have seen the unimaginable. Just like I once did, they dream of living a safe life, free from fear of death or persecution.

The president is a powerful man. He has the power to change his mind and his heart, and open the border to many more of the world’s most vulnerable people. Limiting the number of refugees to a maximum of only 45,000 is a rejection of our common humanity, and an insult to the thousands of people who see America as a beacon of hope.

Abdi Iftin is a former Somali refugee and a current resident of Portland. He works as a refugee advocate, helping refugees find work and integrate into their communities.

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