Photo: Leila R.

Leila R.


34, Project Manager, Masters in Public Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Boston, Massachusetts

My father came in the late 1960s from Syria to do his urological residency in Ohio and Pennsylvania. He soon engaged and brought my mother along to join him in the U.S. After having my two sisters in Pennsylvania and finishing medical residency, they moved to Los Angeles, California where my father opened his first medical office and my parents delivered their third baby girl: me. We had several aunts and uncles who had settled in Los Angeles before us, so although my parents were far away from family, we still had a loving, progressive, intersectionality oriented, and social-justice minded Muslim and Arab community in Los Angeles to lean on. Today, six years into the Syrian civil war, I realize that my family would most likely be refugees if my parents had not moved to the US in the late 1960s when professional immigrants were encouraged and welcome to come. My parents proudly moved to a country that believed in opportunities for all and a ‘melting pot’ of diversity and inclusion. My parents have never missed an opportunity to vote since they were naturalized-something my father reminds us could not have happened in Syria. The US afforded my family opportunities and stability to build a better life.

Why did your family come to the United States? They wanted to leave Syria because they wanted to raise their children in a country that upheld democratic ideals, free speech, and better opportunities.

What would the U.S. be missing out on if you or your people were banned? My father’s sense of humor and Syrian-Lebanese food