Three years ago, Tabin Tangila mesu Kamba arrived in Maine, alone and feeling hopeless, as an asylum-seeker from Congo.

On Tuesday evening, he’ll sit in the gallery of the U.S. House of Representatives listening to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech. He’ll be the guest of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine.

“I never would have dreamed that one day I would be sitting in the same room as the president of the United States,” Kamba said in a news release from Pingree’s office. “I am so happy to have the right to free speech and the right to raise my family without fear of violence here in America.”

In 2011, he made the difficult decision to leave his native country and seek asylum in the United States. In the Congo he worked as a human rights activist, an educator and community volunteer. But the 2011 presidential election in Congo generated chaos and violence. If he remained in Congo, his life and the lives of his wife and young children would be in danger. He fled Congo to seek refuge in the United States.

It was a lengthy process, but he was granted asylum. He enrolled in classes, worked to improve his English language, and today works at a local nonprofit in Portland.

“Tabin is a great example of the immigrants who come to this country and come to Maine to escape persecution and to make a life for themselves and their families,” Pingree said. “In the Congo, Tabin had the courage to stand up for human rights. It was a brave and dangerous thing to do for him, and I’m proud that he and his family are now Mainers and I’m proud to take him to see the president.”

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