Maimuna Barkad, 21, entered a grocery store in Mogadishu, Somalia, in June 1991 to buy food for her parents and 11 siblings. She has not seen them since. "Bombs started exploding," Barkad told Christianity Today. "The people at the store told me not to go home, that I would be killed. They told me to start running."
She ran, and then walked, with three other refugees for three months—homeless, hungry, thirsty, and tired. As the refugees crossed a river into Kenya in small, makeshift boats, one of the crafts sank, drowning two of her companions.
After a year in refugee camps, Barkad found a safe haven in the United States with the help of the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program. She later received help from World Relief, an evangelical relief agency. Barkad, a Muslim, settled in the Atlanta area, married, and had two children.
But Barkad's 13 family members have been stuck in squalid refugee camps in Kenya, where they have been threatened by malaria, malnutrition, and violence. They finally received approval in 2001 to come to the United States under a family reunion program.
They were scheduled to depart when the 9/11 attacks occurred. The State Department immediately instituted a two-month freeze in refugee admissions, and then security concerns caused more delays. As a result, Barkad and her family have not seen each other for more than a decade.
Barkad's family, unfortunately, is not alone. About 85 percent of World Relief's pending cases out of Africa are "special interest"—involving families or individuals whose U.S.-based relatives have filed paperwork in order to be reunited. Experts don't believe that their situation will improve soon.
On October 16, the Bush administration announced new and tighter restrictions on admissions ...1