Citizens of nowhere: Trump ban raises fear for US Rohingya
Chicago: A refugee from Myanmar's tyrannized Rohingya minority, Lila Mubarak embodies perfectly the "poor, huddled masses" welcomed to the United States for more than a century by a bronze plaque at the foot of the Statue of Liberty.
The 27-year-old beams as she recounts her difficult path to citizenship a few short years after fleeing persecution in her homeland to make a new life in America's third city, Chicago.
"I'm so happy to be an American citizen because I was stateless. This is a first for me," Mubarak said after becoming naturalized a few days ago.
But fears are growing in America's 8,000-strong community of Rohingya -- a Muslim ethnic group described as one of the world's most oppressed -- that they might be among the last to benefit from American largesse.
President Donald Trump's inclusion of Myanmar beginning Friday on a list of countries with harsh US entry restrictions has laid bare the frailty of the community's prospects for peace.
Mubarak's journey to the shores of Lake Michigan -- she came via Malaysia -- mirrors the stories of many Rohingya.
Growing up, she never imagined exile in America because she had no reason to flee her southeast Asian homeland, formerly known as Burma before the country's ruling junta made the switch in 1989.
After getting a green card five years ago, she attended classes at the Rohingya Cultural Center in Chicago, a Midwestern city that is home to around a quarter of America's Rohingya.
At its height, the Rohingya population numbered about 800,000 in Myanmar, a small fraction of the country's mostly Buddhist population of 54 million.
Mistreated for generations, they were stripped of their citizenship in 1982 and denied education and health care. - AFP