One day in 2022, after spending months out of work while her work permit application made its way through a painfully slow immigration system, Deema, an ASAP member from Syria, decided to take action.
Deema reached out to her friend Farrah, another Syrian ASAP member. Like Deema, Farrah had first-hand knowledge of the pain and difficulties that government delays can cause: Farrah’s asylum case had been pending for almost 10 years, and her father had passed away while waiting for his asylum interview.
Together, Deema and Farrah deliberated on the best course of action—how could two asylum seekers from Syria, one living in New York City and the other in Louisville, Kentucky, make their voices heard by the federal government?
The two friends knew they wanted to include as many immigrants as possible in the fight, and, in late 2022, they launched a petition.
“NOW is the time for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to reduce the extremely long application processing wait times!” their petition began, before explaining how chronic delays hurt immigrants and how the government can fix the problem.
Deema and Farrah shared the petition little by little, in their communities. “We saw a lot of energy from impacted people,” said Deema. “We thought this would be the first step in making change.”
“Our goal is not just to raise awareness but to offer real solutions,” Farrah said.
Excited by the interest, Deema and Farrah reached out to ASAP asking for feedback on their policy demands, and asking for help sharing the petition with other ASAP members. “We know a lot of asylum seekers are impacted by the issues that our petition covers, and we wanted to reach as big of an audience as possible,” said Deema.
ASAP shared Deema and Farrah’s petition with ASAP’s entire membership – then over 400,000 asylum seekers. The petition received thousands of new signatures, and Deema and Farrah made new connections with asylum seekers across the country.
Since then, they have scaled up their advocacy further, meeting with the offices of 30 members of Congress about their vision for a quicker, more efficient, and more humane immigration system—a vision shared by many other ASAP members and nearly 50,000 signatories to their petition.
They have also added a new section to the petition, inviting impacted immigrants to share their own stories about struggles with USCIS. Deema and Farrah are optimistic about their work connecting with asylum seekers who have encountered similar difficulties, and bringing them into the fight for a more welcoming United States.
“Advocacy is the way,” said Farrah. “We cannot make a change without advocacy.”
Deema and Farrah are also advocating for Temporary Protected Status for Syria, and have asked the U.S. government to provide aid to Syria in the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated the region last year. You can learn more about Deema and Farrah’s advocacy by following them on social media.