On October 22, 2008, the U.S. State Department stopped accepting applications for the Priority 3/Refugee Family Reunification program — the process by which refugees can apply for asylum if one family member is already a legal U.S. resident. State halted the program because DNA testing — primarily of Somalis — had concluded that perhaps 87 percent of applicants were fraudulently claiming family relationships.
Despite continuing war, Somalia of 2008 was not comparable to the open hell of the early 1990s, when an eight-year-old Ilhan and her family fled to Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps. She lived there from 1991 until 1995, aged eight to 12. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services then helped Ilhan, her sister Sahra, and their father Nur Said receive asylum in the United States along with thousands of other Somalis.