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‘We’ve learned from each other:' Tucson man hosts asylum seekers in his home

Posted at 8:55 AM, Jun 12, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Immigration is complicated. It’s a political issue and a human issue.

According to U.S. law, processed asylum seekers are allowed to wait in the U.S. for their cases to be heard by an immigration judge. But those waits can take years, often without a family or permanent home to lean on.

One man in Midtown Tucson opened up his home to try to change that.

Nicholas Matthews is a volunteer with Tucson migrant aid organization Salvavision. Since last fall, he has hosted a handful of asylum seekers in his home.

Salvavision is covering rent for the asylum seekers who stay at Nicholas' house, while he helps give them a place where they can feel at home.

“At first, I felt a little anxious about the idea of having somebody else in my home. But I realized that it was a really beautiful thing,” he told KGUN.

Some asylum seekers stay in his spare bedroom. Others like Haroun Khalifa come for meals and smiles.

Khalifa calls Matthews his “big brother.”

“And Khalifa, he was just really great,” said Matthews. “He’s been really excellent here. He’s such a friendly guy… He was the first person I ever met from Chad. And I got to know him and his story.”

Part of that story is gut-wrenching. Khalifa says the government in Chad tortured him and killed his father.

“This government in America here, is protection for me,” he said.

Most asylum seekers who cross the border in Southern Arizona just transit through on their way to another part of the country. But some end up staying and becoming part of the community.

Khalifa now volunteers in a community garden with the Iskashitaa Refugee Network in Tucson.

“So he’s giving back to our community while he’s here too,” Matthews explained.

Khalifa is wholeheartedly embracing Mexican food.

“The rice and the avocado and the chicken… It’s big food. I like to eat big food,” Khalifa said with a laugh, indicating that he wants to stay in the area.

“Tucson, here, I like it,” he said. “Tucson is good for me.”

Matthews and Khalifa seem good for each other.

“I’ve noticed, when people stay with me their English is better after the time they’re here,” said Matthews. “And I’ve also picked up on some French. So it’s like we teach each other… We’ve learned from each other in a lot of ways. So it’s been a really eye-opening experience.”

Khalifa says he is set to have his asylum case heard next month.