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July 3, 2015

Abdi and the Golden Ticket

A story about someone who's desperately trying – against long odds – to make it to the United States and become an American. Abdi is a Somali refugee living in Kenya and gets the luckiest break of his life: he wins a lottery that puts him on a short list for a U.S. visa. This is his ticket out. But before he can cash in his golden ticket, the police start raiding his neighborhood, targeting refugees.

Abdi Nor in Nairobi. Credit: Leo Hornak

Prologue

Ira talks to cyber cafe workers around the world about something that lots of Americans have never heard of, but that people in other countries know all about: a lottery run by the U.S. government where the prize is a visa to come to America. Each year people flock to cyber cafes to enter it, hoping for a lucky break that will change their life. In 2014, one of the lottery winners was Abdi Nor, whose story today's show is about. (10 minutes)

Act One

It turns out winning the lottery is only the first step in trying to come to America. More than half of the people who win each year never make it. Abdi is living in Nairobi, Kenya, when he wins, and as he's trying to prepare for his interview at the U.S. Embassy, Kenyan police start relentlessly raiding his neighborhood, rounding up Somalis and taking them away. So Abdi goes into hiding in his apartment. Leo Hornak spoke to Abdi almost every night while this was happening, to find out if Abdi would evade the police and make it to America. (17 minutes)

Abdi has a memoir out on Tuesday called "Call Me American." He's also going on a short book tour.