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Lala is 31 and has lived in the US for about a year. She recently received asylee status, meaning she can now find employment. She left the Congo because she and her aunt had problems with the security forces, the details of which she did not want to talk about. All she would say was that she and her aunt were arrested and broken out of jail, but that her aunt could not get to the US because she was unable to walk to Nigeria. A woman in Nigeria helped Lala travel to the US. Lala emphasized to us that she would much rather have gone to France instead of the US because she speaks French. Lala said to us, “Sometimes I feel lonely, homesick.”
Helping Lala apply for jobs was very poignant for me: here is a woman who is well-versed in cutting edge laboratory techniques, being forced to apply for jobs that would neither challenge her mind nor use her skills. When the job applications ask about her education, she fills in “Institute for Advanced Medical Sciences” with a degree in “Laboratory Techniques.” Robbing a person of the opportunity to give back to society, especially when they want to do that more than anything else, is tantamount to imprisoning her. In the Congo, Lala survived a violent rebellion; in the US, Lala is the victim of a quiet, insidious injustice.