Abdinasir Kahin: Finding Comfort in Chicago As A Somali Refugee

Abdinasir is a cab driver living in Rogers Park. He came to Chicago as a Somolian refugee in 2002 seeking a better life for his family. He loves everything about Chicago from the people to the architecture to the Bulls. This story was produced by One Chicago, a campaign that facilitates access to resources and support for Chicago’s residents, including its immigrant and refugee communities. Since its founding, people from around the country and throughout the world have made Chicago their home.

The “Chicago is With You” Task Force was launched in 2016 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, and Congressman Luis Gutiérrez. The task force ensures Chicago delivers comprehensive support to immigrant, refugees, and other disenfranchised communities by collaborating on legal services, mental health, employer diversity training, and education.

“I came to Chicago simply because as you already know Somalia is a failed state. In its civil war, so many people were displaced, a lot of persecution was occurring, and I actually came to America to seek asylum here, as a refugee. There was war all over the country and the government actually collapsed; the president fled the country. We thought that maybe things would be better and that maybe we would even go back to our city. But that didn’t happen. Life was hard. Things were not easy.

I had to make a hard decision and leave my family behind, as I decided to come to the United States. It was really hard, I didn’t know anyone, I did not speak any English. Everything was alien to me: the system, the infrastructure, America, all these things that made me really confused. I didn’t know the way of navigating asylum applications, that you need a lawyer and all these things. I could not afford a meal, let alone a lawyer. These are resources that are very very crucial to somebody who is a refugee. One thing I found out in Chicago is you don’t need money to go and reach whatever you want; there are so many resources out there that can help the common man.

That is when life started breathing in me again. That is where a good therapist, doctor, a wonderful team of people, worked around the clock to put me back on track; to put me out of the depression, out of the trauma that I had, and slowly by slowly help me become what I am today.

After a long eight years, in 2008, my family joined me. I was in the airport six hours before their arrival, waiting with a sign that said “ welcome,”  and flowers. I remembered tears running down my eyes; it was the happiest day of my life. We made it through the help of many good people, and believe me, that is why I tell you, Chicago is somewhere I will never forget.”