Ali Farid and his family had a good life in Iraq. His father worked as an electrical engineer. His mother was trained as an anthropologist. The family of six was safe. And, at age 18, Farid began a lucrative, albeit highly dangerous, job to support his concurrent university law studies: as a combat translator for U.S. Army troops.
Affectionately known as “the kid,” Farid spent three years in fatigues alongside U.S. infantry, clearing roads and sweeping villages in the violent region south of Baghdad known as the Triangle of Death. But his work, vital to Coalition Forces, ended when his U.S. battalion pulled out in 2010. So did his protection. “The militias started making targets of us. They refer to us as traitors, that we deserve to die,” he says. “My life was put in danger, and my family’s, as well.”
Farid was lucky. He received a Special Immigrant Visa—one designated for Iraqis and Afghans who assisted U.S. forces but that has been doled out sparingly—and the family was resettled in Maine in 2011. Within a year, Farid was enrolled at the University of Maine School of Law. Now poised to begin practicing law, Farid’s ambitions are large, multifaceted, and distinctly focused on helping Maine.
“I did visit a number of big cities, and the hugely supportive community I have here is something I would not change,” he says. “Portland is going to be beneficial in the long term to people who are from immigrant communities, and us being here is going to be beneficial to expand the economy here.”
Portland is going to be beneficial in the long term to people who are from immigrant communities, and us being here is going to be beneficial to expand the economy here.”
First up, Farid plans to combine his legal training, foreign connections, and language skills—he is fluent in Arabic, English, and French—to help facilitate foreign investment in Maine through new import-export businesses. Think Maine maple syrup, he says, a product one of his Middle Eastern contacts is already very interested in buying. Next, Farid plans to provide free legal services to help attract and keep young immigrants, a population considered critical to averting the state’s looming workforce shortage. “Some cities in Maine do not have enough people,” Farid says. “We need them.”