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Tiffany Tran, 13, left, reads from her prayer book during the Interfaith Prayer Service to Pray for Immigrants and Refugees at the Archdiocese of New Orleans Hispanic Apostolate in Metairie, La. Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018.

I’m a community advocate, husband and father of five lovely children. I came to the United States as a refugee from Sierra Leone nine years ago. My family and I were forced to leave everything behind after armed rebels attacked my hometown. It was a violence-laden day, filled with unspeakable horror and tragedy.

My beloved dad and younger sister were killed, five of my childhood friends’ hands were amputated, a portion of my hand was almost cut off, and I got shot in my left leg. My family’s house was set on fire with my mom, brothers and other relatives inside. My mum survived the horror through an escape route on the basement, but unfortunately, my 7-year-old baby sister was burned alive.

Recently, I reflected on my sad journey as the Trump Administration slashed the refugee resettlement program, the program I came through, to 30,000, the lowest in U.S. history. As someone who understands the struggles of refugees firsthand, I am disheartened to see that my beloved new home is denying that same opportunity to others now facing similarly dangerous situations.

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As with many refugees, I would have preferred to remain in my homeland. However, due to constant fear of persecution and the brutal war that took away my loved once, I had no other choice but to leave. After experiencing such sufferings, I faced other post-resettlement challenges, such as dealing with discrimination, learning a new language, way of life, and culture. What made the biggest difference in overcoming these hardships — and in healing from past traumas — has been the welcome received when I joined my new community, Baton Rouge.

I always viewed America as a beacon of hope. The executive orders banning Muslim immigrants and worst of all, slashing the resettlement program to the lowest in U.S. history, do not reflect that. In fact, they completely contradict the values America stands for: compassion, welcome, and resilience. The United States is a country where anyone should be able to pursue the American dream and live in safety.

I continue now to believe in the importance of welcoming others — for others have welcomed my family. I seek myself to welcome other refugees who are new arrivals. I raise my voice to support the rights of refugees through my work as president of the Louisiana Organization for Refugees and Immigrants and in my capacity as Louisiana state delegate at the Refugee Congress.

There is a sense of hope finding a home brings, and I urge our local leaders, state legislators, and national policy makers to stand with refugees — today and every day. Only then will we truly reflect the welcome our country stands for.

If you read my story and feel compassion, please turn your compassion into action and urge your state and federal legislators to support increasing the resettlement program to 75,000. Together, we can inspire welcome across the country and around the world.

Dauda Sesay

Refugee Congress delegate

Baton Rouge