“You know, in Iraq, there's lots of bombs,” Melia looked up at me from the couch in the apartment where she lives with her family. She has wide deep eyes and long, curling black hair that can barely be contained by the braid its folded into. She moved to Albuquerque with her family three years ago, at the age of six. Despite her age, she manages an acute understanding of things that I can't imagine. “There are groups that the police can't catch,” she summarizes in her small sincere voice.
Now 9, Melia knows a geography of catastrophe that I have no road map for. She has seen more of the world, speaks more of its languages and understands with subtlety both its cruelty and remunerations. Melia Khouri (not her real name) and her family are refugees from Baghdad, who cut a circuitous route to New Mexico amid increasing uncertainty and violence in their native city. They, as a family of only four then -- their youngest daughter, Rabia, was born in the U.S. -- applied for asylum here, a lengthy process that's widely been called “the world's most rigorous” while moving through a day-to-day life that didn't feel entirely safe or stable.