Ibrahim waits in line at 4 am for his turn to speak to a U.S. border official. This is his twentieth day in line. He’s exhausted, thirsty, and hungry all the time, but Ibrahim has endured much worse conditions in his journey around the world. His face is lined and hardened like someone much older, even though he just turned eighteen.
When his mother and older sister died from COVID in 2020 leaving him an orphan, Ibrahim became a child soldier in the Sudanese RDF. At least the army would feed him and provide a sleeping mat. He thought he’d be safe in the military but soon learned the daily threat of death from government forces. Ibrahim deserted the army and ran for his life after an ambush killed everyone in his platoon except him. He left Sudan, the only home he had ever known, with just the clothes on his back.
Ibrahim made his way to Tunisia in the hope of finding passage across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. In Tunis, he met three other Sudanese men with the same plan and the same problem. They were all penniless and smugglers charged $500.They worked as day laborers until they had enough money to leave. Three months later, they boarded a rickety boat crowded with more than two-hundred people. On the second day of the voyage, the overcrowded boat capsized in a storm. Thankfully, Ibrahim had learned to swim in the army and was able to stay afloat until the Italian rescue ship arrived. All of his friends drowned.
Ibrahim landed in Italy with the police waiting to take him into custody. He managed to slip away from the police in the chaos at the docks. For several days, Ibrahim hid during the day and kept a lookout for ships coming the docks. When a container ship headed for Mexico came into port, Ibrahim slipped aboard as a stowaway and made his journey across the Atlantic.
Now, Ibrahim waits in line for a chance to apply for asylum. Others in line keep saying he’s wasting his time since the Americans always find a reason to keep young African men out. But Ibrahim had defied the odds his whole life. So, he waits.