A dismaying account of bureaucracy at its red-tape-bound worst.
Kenney, who was imprisoned and tortured for leading a tea farmer’s protest in Kenya, was fortunate to be befriended by generous Peace Corps workers, who helped get him out of Kenya and to the United States on a basketball scholarship in 1995. He was also fortunate to meet Schrag, who heads Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Legal Studies, an organization that helps asylum seekers. Schrag provides an introduction that explains how the co-authors worked together to present the story from Kenney’s point of view. Kenney accumulated mountains of paperwork and endured countless frustrations as he worked his way through a labyrinth of federal courts and other government agencies, struggling to comply with complex rules and regulations while pleading his case before seemingly arbitrary, sometimes openly hostile officials. Facing deportation in 2004, he left for Africa, where he was captured and nearly killed by rebel forces in Tanzania. Bribery was a standard part of nearly every transaction, but after extraordinary difficulties with an epithet-spouting official at the U.S. consulate, he succeeded in getting an immigrant visa and returned to his pregnant wife in America. The authors make clear that the odds are against asylum seekers, especially since 9/11. Each has his own epilogue: Kenney’s is deeply personal, Schrag’s is a lawyerly analysis of what’s wrong with the way the United States treats immigrants and how the system could be improved.
Wrenching human drama, bogged down in a plethora of details that often make for tedious reading.