I was disappointed to see him again. An asylum seeker had returned to our offices on the Fourth of July following my instructions to come back if Home Affairs did not renew his permit. Seeing him walk through the LRC lobby meant he had been turned away again. Working with this refugee on a day set aside to celebrate America's independence presented an obvious illustration of how the promise of freedom is delivered by degree based on who you are.

When I first met him on July 3, he was already feeling hopeless. It is why he came to the LRC: he was out of options. He had gone to the Cape Town Temporary Facility (more on that some other time, perhaps) to renew his asylum-seeker permit the day before it expired. His English is not very good, so I am not sure he even knows why officials told him to come back, but their refusal to help him has now left him undocumented and at risk of being seen as an undesirable person by the South African government. This comes with serious consequences including jail and deportation. Just as consequential, in a story I hear too often now, he lost his job because he had been traveling from his home about three hours away to come to Cape Town to renew his papers.

Is his experience the kind of freedom us Americans would accept for ourselves? Sure, he is free from the violence of his home country, living in a democratic place of refuge. However, every time he travels he is exposed. Earning a livelihood, which is essential for having housing and other necessities, is immensely more difficult without a valid permit. I do not know where he slept the nights he was in Cape Town, but through conversations with other refugees I have met, I know sleeping on the streets is their only option when they have to travel to different cities to renew their documents.

He was not happy to see me either. He kept repeating that he just wanted to go home after having visited Home Affairs three days in a row. I took down a detailed timeline of each visit he made to Home Affairs (eight total) so that I could follow up with the acting minister on his behalf to get a set date and time he can return and be helped by an official. The pressure of time weighs on me. With two weeks left, I am hoping it is enough time to at least get a date for his sake.