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Utah twins graduate, reflect on refugee parents’ sacrifices

Sisters Asma Dahir, left, and Anisa Dahir take photos before their graduation ceremony at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, May 7, 2021. The graduation of the twin sisters from a refugee family marked a key milestone in a journey that is a testament to their hard work, their parents’ insistence that they place a high value on educational opportunities, and the collective efforts of those who helped two little girls who spoke only Somali when they started kindergarten. (Laura Seitz/The Deseret News via AP)

By MARJORIE CORTEZ, SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Twin sisters Anisa Dahir and Asma Dahir walked briskly, in high heels no less, up a ramp to the stage where they would be awarded college diplomas and congratulated by Westminster College President Beth Dobkin.
The commencement in Salt Lake City earlier this month marked a key milestone in a journey that is a testament to their hard work, their refugee parents’ insistence that they place a high value on educational opportunities, and the collective efforts of educators and community members who helped two little girls who spoke only Somali when they started kindergarten become college graduates, the Deseret News reported.
The Dahir sisters were born in the United States, but their parents and older siblings were refugees in East Africa who were resettled in Utah.
“My mom, she repeated this proverb to us since we were kids. ‘Aqoon la’aan wa iftiin la’aan,’ which translates to ‘Without education, there will be no light,’” Anisa Dahir said.
Recently, the Dahir family celebrated their twin daughters’ graduation. Each earned a bachelor’s degree in public health and are Honors College graduates.
“Showing my mom that her words are coming true and we’re living through it right now, it’s just so rewarding and so fun. So yeah, I’m just basically just so excited and so happy. It’s a lot of feelings, but mostly happiness and joy,” Anisa Dahir said on graduation day.
Asma Dahir, in an interview a week after graduation, said walking in the ceremony “was like a testimony to our parents that their girls did it, and their sacrifice to coming to America and surviving through civil war and raising us in a foreign land with foreign culture and foreign language was all worth it.”
According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, there are at least 79.5 million people worldwide who have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are some 26 million refugees and roughly half of them are under age of 18.
After a historically low number of refugee resettlements in the United States during the Trump administration, President Joe Biden announced earlier this month that he is revising the nation’s annual refugee admission cap to 62,500 for this fiscal year, up from 15,000.
The United States’ refugee admissions program “embodies America’s commitment to protect the most vulnerable, and to stand as a beacon of liberty and refuge to the world. It’s a statement about who we are, and who we want to be. So we are going to rebuild what has been broken and push hard to complete the rigorous screening process for those refugees already in the pipeline for admission,” a statement from the White House said in part.

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