Issoufou, Idrissa, and Emmanuel Arrive at FHC

In January 2020, three young men, Issoufou, Idrissa, and Emmanuel, from Burkina Faso, a western country in Africa, began living in our church apartment. They had fled their village when it was attacked and their families were massacred. Unable to speak English, and with help from many strangers, they managed to make their way from Africa to California and ultimately to Youngstown, Ohio, where they were detained in prison. Forest Hill learned of their plight and arranged for them to take refuge in our church while they began the process of obtaining legal asylum in the United States.

Church volunteers tutored them in English, helped them navigate our complex and agonizingly slow immigration system, and enabled them to experience American life. After two years of  waiting, Issoufou and Idrissa decided to go to Canada to try to immigtrate through Canada’s much more humane immigration network. Emmanuel remained at FHC. He is understandably anxious to move into his own apartment and become more independent. This process is stalled due to the enormous backlog of asylum cases in the US. Currently there are 800,000 to one million asylum seekers awaiting hearings. US Immigration policy does not allow for individuals to have work permits while waiting for their asylum cases to be processed. This means that Emmanuel, and the many others like him, are totally dependent on the goodwill of their sponsors and the odd jobs they are able to find.

Emmanuel has done numerous jobs for people over the years; everything from moving furniture, cleaning, light and heavy yard work, and minor car repairs. He is a remarkable young man who has made great strides in the past few years to integrate into American life. He spent his first months getting around by foot or bus. When he received a bike, he gained a measure of independence while he continues to wait for his asylum hearing.