Becoming an American
This information design print project focuses on the current process of applying to be a refugee in America. This organization of information aims to link 2 timelines. The first being the proposed timeline from the US government on how you can apply to become a refugee. The second is the story of Mostafa Hassoun, a current refugee from Syria trying to become an American.
“More Than: Beyond the Refugee Stereotype” - Exhibit
This poster was featured at Penn Law School at a refugee art exhibit to combat stereotypes surrounding refugees.
Mostafa Hassoun’s Story
If we stayed, we would have been killed
Mostafa Hassoun and his family fled their home in Latika after the Syrian regime discovered that he and his father had participated in protests. As government forces were on their way to occupy the city, Hassoun and his family traveled to the Turkish border where they begged to cross and be allowed into a refugee camp.
Applying for Resettlement
Two years later Mostafa and his family applied for resettlement. One week after they applied, they were informed their application had been approved and were asked to travel to Turkey’s capital for the first interview.
The Hassoun family had to travel nine hours for their first interview. The session started as a group interview, but soon the family was separated. The interviewers made sure to check discrepancies between the family members, making sure their stories were aligned.
“Why do you hate Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad?”
The next interview was identical to the previous, however, this time the questions were far more aggressive.
“If Assad gives you freedom and democracy, why are you protesting him? What do you you want from him?”
Officials were now looking for anything to disqualify their resettlement. A month later the resettlement agency conducted a phone interview probing Mostafa about the hospital he had worked at for the last 7 months.
“Do you work with a jihadist group? Whose donations are funding the hospital?”
Three weeks later the family’s application was updated. The International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) accepted their application for settlement in the US but this did not guarantee that they could relocate to the US.
A few months later the Hassoun family traveled 15 hours for an interview with ICMC. This interview also followed the same questioning as the last but was more focused on their beliefs toward the US. The officials also took iris scans of each of them to run through their databases.
“Would you protest in the United States, and what would you protest for?
Screening in the U.S. System
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Hassoun family’s information was being continuously run through multiple government databases to find any suspicious activity or relationships. This starts as soon as the first interview and does not end until they arrive in their new country.
The final interview was conducted by the State Department. The family had to swear that everything they had said previously was true, and if any of them lied they were told that there would be major consequences.
The medical check was the last barrier Mostafa and his family had to cross. This consisted of a full 8 hour, top to bottom, health assessment that took blood samples, x-rays, and scans of the eyes and the ears.
After the whole process only Mostafa and his sister were given the opportunity to move to the US. Mostafa’s sister chose to stay with her other siblings and mother, relocating to Sweden. One of Mostafa’s sisters were given resettlement in Germany and his father still is waiting in Turkey, to rejoin his wife and children.