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Jehad Al-Issa waved his cigarette around the night air.

“You may not believe it, but I was a big man in Syria. Now look at me. Driving Uber in Gainesville, Florida.”

He, who in Syria once had two drivers of his own, had become the driver.

In Syria, he also had two maids, two bodyguards, and a six-bedroom house. He had a tribe, for whom he was once in line to be sheikh, the leader. A tribe that would send hundreds of its members to back him in a dispute against one man.

More than all of that, he had his father’s name: Abdulkarim Jamil Al-Issa. Abdulkarim had been a prominent lawyer, a socialist known for fighting on behalf of the people and refusing to bend to autocratic governments. His uncompromising morals over so many years had given his name power.

When Jehad was a child, his father told him to never be afraid of any president or king.

My name is enough for you, his father said.

And for more than 48 years, it had been.

But then Jehad, like 6.6 million other Syrians, was forced to flee his homeland. And when he landed in Gainesville in 2012 and applied for asylum shortly after, he became caught in a system in which his father’s name was not enough. It is a system that has kept him in limbo for nearly a decade without a case hearing.

In America, Jehad learned what it means to be powerless.

Written by Katie Hyson