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Thursday, September 7, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM


Kirkland family's American dream a step closer

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Ayoob Siddick picked up his cellphone Wednesday afternoon to hear the news he'd been waiting for after nearly six months of frayed nerves and sleepless nights.

An immigration judge in Seattle granted asylum in the U.S. to the Kirkland resident; his wife, Amida; and their four children. They will not be deported to their native Zimbabwe, where the family feared they would face persecution or worse.

"I feel as if I've been fighting this great war, and now I'm victorious," Siddick said. "We are taking time to reflect on everything that has happened in the past and all the people who have rallied around us and have never faltered."

The family, which is buying a home near Mill Creek, moved to Kirkland five years ago to escape what they described as turmoil and widespread government corruption. The Siddicks had been fighting for asylum since 2003, when their first application was denied because the family had not applied for asylum status within one year of arriving in the U.S., as the law requires.

In March they appealed that decision and faced an immigration judge in Seattle to explain why they feared persecution if they returned to Zimbabwe. In her ruling Wednesday, Judge Victoria Young agreed that the Siddicks could face persecution.

The Siddicks were members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the opposition party to the government's ruling party, and members of the MDC have been arrested without cause, tortured and killed, according to the State Department's 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released in March.

The family's mixed-race heritage — he has Pakistani ancestry — also would leave the family open to prejudice by those of indigenous Zimbabwean descent, Siddick said.

After getting the good news on Wednesday, Siddick, who works as a facilities manager at Lake Washington High School, ran over to tell Amida, who is a data processor for the same school. From there, the celebration began, Siddick said.

"The office kind of erupted," said Brad Malloy, principal at Lake Washington. "There were lots of smiles and hugs, handshakes and tears."

The family has been bolstered and supported by the staff and students at Lake Washington High. Last year, high-school students organized several fundraisers and brought in thousands of dollars toward attorney fees for the family.

Three children in the family graduated from the school, and the youngest son attends Rose Hill Junior High School.

The family must wait 30 days to see if the Department of Homeland Security will appeal the judge's decision to grant asylum, said Robert Pauw, the immigration attorney representing the Siddicks.

Barring any appeals, the family has refugee status and can apply for permanent U.S. resident status in one year. After that, they can apply for citizenship in five years, Pauw said.

"I want to be an American," Siddick said. "I'm deeply in debt to the American people, and I will not let them down. I will be an asset to them."

Rachel Tuinstra: 206-515-5637 or

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company



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