Seeking Refuge Despite the Travel Ban

"Thank you for recognizing World Refugee Week and the resilience and courage of refugees all around the world. Seeking asylum is never a crime."  

For World Refugee Week, AMEL Speaker Bnyad Sharef made stops in New Jersey and New York, sharing his story of trying to seek refuge in the United States during the first moments of the Travel Ban. The story began back in 2004 when his father, inspired by American values of democracy and rule of law, began working as a translator for the U.S. government in Iraq. After years of putting himself and his family at risk, he was issued a Special Immigrant Visa following extensive vetting and processing.  But the Executive Order signed in January 2017 voided all of this with the stroke of a pen while the family was already en route to the United States. Sent back to Iraq without hope or a place to live, they told their story to anyone who would listen and thankfully it fell on the right ears, leading to an exception being granted.

"The only reason that we were able to come here is because people took to the streets, people took action. We are eternally grateful for all the people who lifted even a single finger to voice their opinions and who ultimately got us back home to Nashville, Tennessee."

Find out more about Bnyad and the My Voice, Our Future program that is helping him share his story here. To request Bnyad as a speaker for your campus, community or event, please email