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20 June 2011

World Refugee Day: One USCIS Officer’s Reflections

(Written by Diane Norman, USCIS Refugee Officer)

To say that it has been a pleasure to work as a Refugee Officer for two years would be an understatement. Since starting this job, I have worked in 10 countries on four continents, each beautiful in its own way. Traveling around the world was always my dream. So I can’t deny that when I started this job, I was most excited about the evenings and weekends I would have to explore my new surroundings.

I soon discovered, however, that it was the workdays, not the weekends, that would have the greater impact on my life.

USCIS refugee officers often struggle to get through interviews by day’s end, so I cherish the moments when I can put down my pen and have a real conversation with the person in front of me. I don’t want to ask any more mandatory questions or check off any more boxes. I want to know what their lives are like; what they do for fun and what their hopes for the future are.

After listening to the terrible things these people have endured in their home countries, it amazes me that they can still be full of compassion, love, and hope. I see how they light up when they talk about their children, their hobbies, or their dreams for the future.

I’m sure that refugees such as the Iraqi child who loves PlayStation, the Burmese girl who lost her parents, or the Iraqi Christian woman who couldn’t stop thanking me after the interview will do just fine in the U.S. I know my work has a great impact on their lives - and the impact they’ve had on my life will stick with me forever.

Endnote: For more information on World Refugee Day and USCIS's work with refugees, please see our website.

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30 Comments:

At June 20, 2011 at 4:42:00 PM EDT , Anonymous emilio zabala said...

sus comentatarios son exelentes que pena que dentro de nuestro hermoso extraordinario pais tambien tengamos tanto sufrimiento al ver tantas familias separadas devido a las actuales leyes migratorias , estamos levantando una generacion sin padres espero que ud que se ve una persona comprensiva del dolor humano pueda hacer algo para que la situacion de miles que viven en las sombras pueda cambiar drasticamente en nuestro pais gracias le hablo Emilio Zabala desde mcallen texas

 
At June 20, 2011 at 4:44:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing from the heart Diane :) -HKS, from TSA

 
At June 20, 2011 at 4:54:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Maria Nicieza said...

It’s really nice and comforting to read these lines from a USCIS officer. I’m glad to be part of this great country where people like Officer Norman show their heart in what they do for living.
God bless you

 
At June 20, 2011 at 5:13:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived and celeberated world refugee day, june 20 more than five or more times since I came out of age. I lived in one of the largest refugee camp in the world located in Dadaab, Kenya. After more than 18 years confined in that refugee camp, I now live in the United States,happilly living and democraticaly expressing and sharing my idea with my friends and friends across the.I am attending University and Studying International Law so that I may one day help not only my self but also many innocent women and children who are subjected to all kinds of torture.

 
At June 20, 2011 at 5:40:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for your hard work.

 
At June 20, 2011 at 6:39:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Kris Boudreau said...

Diane, you are truly a remarkable person. I love your ambition to travel and make a mark on others' lives. Good on you!

 
At June 20, 2011 at 8:45:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this statement. It brought me to tears, knowing I have had my own experiences with the same characteristics as described. I thank God every day for love and I also admire you taking time out to express the love that you have for humanitarian. God bless you.

 
At June 20, 2011 at 10:34:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Few in the developed world have an appreciation for the hardships that the Refugees go through.
In this short note you have expressed how much you have realized the pain suffered by the Refugees and the Hope that each of them have for the younger generations.
God Bless you and all those who work with the people who are oppressed.
R

 
At June 21, 2011 at 3:12:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Ismail Nanabawa said...

I am a American Burmese from Los Angeles.
I am so proud you as a refugee officer.
God Blessed America for this great job
And God Blessed you.

Ismail Nanabawa ( Los Angeles )

 
At June 21, 2011 at 6:31:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please be more elaborative on what did you find emotive in the refugees you interviewed. Dleep Mehta, New Delhi, India

 
At June 21, 2011 at 9:03:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Diane's story demonstrated that these Refugee Officers are indeed humane. Though, they must follow procedures they are touched and care about the people they are processing. I enjoyed reading it.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 9:38:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmmmm......"I’m sure that refugees such as the Iraqi child who loves PlayStation, the Burmese girl who lost her parents, or the Iraqi Christian woman who couldn’t stop thanking me after the interview will do just fine in the U.S."

What about Iraqi Muslims, whose country was so violently destroyed by the US? Do they have any chance?

 
At June 21, 2011 at 9:59:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this story Diane. I have been a refugee for 10 years and i thank God and this country for allowing me and my family to start a new life. I still remember the day when we were awarded political asylum. It was one of the happiest days of my life. Thank you officers for your service and support.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 10:58:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Donna DiPalo said...

Diane, as a US Citizen since birth I also want to thank you for your sincerity in the work you do as a Refugee Officer. It is unfortunate that more citizens of this giving country called America don't quite see or choose to understand the refugee situation since, at one time, we were all the product of some refugee. Thanks again.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 11:31:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It’s really nice and comforting to read these lines from a USCIS officer. I am truly honored and proud to say we are colleagues. God's word that says "If you make others happy, you will be happier yourself" is sooooo true. May God continue to bless you!

 
At June 21, 2011 at 1:10:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the great work

May God bless you

 
At June 21, 2011 at 1:39:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

She might be one of the better ones, but my experience doesnt' share the same reflections. The officers are so tense and strict that when you come in the examination room, you can feel the pressure like they play "God". Not a good experience. And I always wonder how those officers can become so unhumane. I wish Diane will practice only the best of her to get praised by those so-much-bitten refugees.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 3:20:00 PM EDT , Blogger Amer Dogar said...

It is something when you are living in comfort and get chances to interact with less blessed people and know their worries,then you on one side have the pleasure what a sincere sympathy always gives you and on the other side you become a mean to lessen the intensity of their worries.Its a great service to humanity.Diane Norman is good at heart and serving the humanity.The real job.
Amer Dogar(pakistan)

 
At June 21, 2011 at 5:33:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is so refreshing to read a blog with only kindness and appreciation expressed. It is sometimes easy to think that people around us don't care about these issues, and it made my day to read 11 people who did care enough to give thanks.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 6:21:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

God bless all Refugees and God bless the USA.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 6:22:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the United States of America, I am happy to be an american, long live the U.S!

 
At June 22, 2011 at 11:40:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Jesus Monaco said...

Thanks Diane for helping refugees and I have to say it because it affects direct to my family. We can now have our children and our grandchildren together. When you have to leave the rest of your family (parents and siblings) knowing they are suffering not only the harmful environment but your absence, you have to say thanks God we are in America and my kids are safe and free. No matter what hard future you must see , no matter how difficult can pass another day, because you can see your sons and your wife and you can hugs and kiss them. Thank for your help. Please keep being as a correct officer who use the mind and heart at the same time. God Bless you and all the others USCIS officers. God Bless America.

 
At June 22, 2011 at 11:24:00 PM EDT , Blogger ONE LOVE said...

It's wonderful that you brought us a news about different refugees. I really enjoyed it. But my comment is that it's also a blessing to have a refugee that has a complete faithful life like me. I've lived in USA for about five years and finally became A CITIZEN OF USA. IT's a beautiful life I'm living and all I can say is God Bless us All.

 
At June 24, 2011 at 12:41:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am Colombian.. and a asylee in USA(2000). Thanks from the bottom of my heart for every time you listen to a story of despair and unjustice..Regardless of the continent or the country people like me are coming from...I am forever thankful for the day an USA officer said "Political Asylum granted!! My heart and many others have been healed by those words. People around the World see USA and americans as invaders or the ones to blame for everything that happens in our countries -They were taught to hate USA for no reasons or told them that our problems are all due Americans- no realizing many times that the governments in our countries are basically the ones that keep us living in places of unjustice.. THANKS USA for giving me and many others the chance to live a life of freedom.. THANK YOU american officers for listening carefully or perceiving when GOOD people and souls need a chance to live in USA and a chance to give and offer to USA THE BEST they have - good ideas, talents, hard work and sometimes just good intentions!!! This country will be the best in the WORLD as long as they keep appreciating, embracing and accepting not only diversity but offering to wounded souls the place to live and prosper.. My gratitude and prayers to those officers who put their heart in every case they listen to.... My hard work and blood to USA.. Land of dreams and freedom!!! CARLOS MARTINEZ...Miami, Florida. Colombia.

 
At June 27, 2011 at 4:29:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Brenda K said...

I am very proud of you Ms Norman.I've been wanting to be a USCIS officer, hopefully one day I'll be just like you.God Bless!!

 
At June 28, 2011 at 3:43:00 PM EDT , Blogger gabby said...

Dios Bendiga America y a todos los soldados y gente que de una forma u otra nos estan ayudando a que sigamos con "nuestro suenio americano" lastima por todas esas familias separadas por las leyes anti-inmigrantes, pero tenemos esperanza aun; por el futuro de nuestros hijos!

 
At June 30, 2011 at 10:38:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Mike said...

God bless America and all the refugees. Thanks to everyone and Ms.Norman who works so hard helping refugees.

 
At June 30, 2011 at 11:07:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"She might be one of the better ones, but my experience doesnt' share the same reflections. The officers are so tense and strict that when you come in the examination room, you can feel the pressure like they play "God". Not a good experience."

The Immigration Officers are not trying to play "God" or be strict in a mean way. They are just trying to follow the law while making sure that the applicant are telling the truth/credible and qualify for the benefits they are applying for. Isn't that the right thing to do????

 
At December 8, 2011 at 5:47:00 AM EST , Anonymous Ricky1 said...

Hello. I was wondering what did you major in to become a Refugee Officer? I am a college student and don't know what to major in to become a Refugee Office or gain a career within the USCIS. I'd appreciate your help.
Thanks!

 
At June 25, 2012 at 1:28:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Ulrih said...

Thanks for helping people around the world to find better life. I bet every refugee would appreciate your hard work.

 

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