On February 20th, 2024, we welcomed Salam Bustanji as the first Operations and Engagement Specialist for the Office of Immigrant Affairs.  

Salam will be responsible for handling the office’s strategic communications, from supporting the office’s community engagement to day-to-day operations and programs.

We asked Salam some questions to get to know her better.

Tell us about yourself

Hello! My name is Salam Bustanji. I am a writer and journalist with a background in immigration law and digital media. As a journalist, I covered issues of human rights, gender, armed conflict, geopolitics, and culture wars. In my role as an immigration paralegal, I navigated the complexities of U.S. immigration law, handling humanitarian, family, and employment-based petitions. With a BA and MA in English Literature, my academic focus has been on Gender Studies and Disability Studies. I am also bilingual, native speaker of both English and Arabic. 

I am thrilled to contribute my professional and cross-cultural experience to the Philadelphia Office of Immigrant Affairs, eager to learn from my colleagues and constituents, and committed to serving our immigrant community.


Where are you originally from and why did you come to Philly? 

Before moving to Philadelphia, I lived in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where I spent my formative years, from the ’90s until 2013. I then moved to Amman, Jordan—interestingly, a city that once bore the name Philadelphia—for my college education, residing there until 2019. Since relocating to Philadelphia, I’ve felt an immediate connection to the city’s vibrant and diverse community. The brotherly love here resonated with me, echoing my experiences from one Philadelphia to another.

I am lucky to have lived in such multicultural and multilingual cities, where I absorbed various cultures and mastered all Arabic dialects, which keeps me connected to Philadelphia’s immigrant communities. 


Why are you interested in working for the Office of Immigrant Affairs? 

My deep admiration for the Office of Immigrant Affairs’ mission and efforts stems from both my professional background in immigration law and my first-hand experience as a community-involved immigrant in the city. My immigration journey has instilled in me the ability to embrace diverse cultures and seize every chance to advocate for immigration rights, and at OIA, I feel like I can use those skills to give back to my community. I aspire to contribute to OIA’s important work toward immigration reform, fostering social change, shedding light on critical issues, and amplifying immigrant voices.


Tell us a little bit about your career before joining OIA? 

Before joining the Office of Immigrant Affairs, I honed my skills as a writer and editor for a newspaper, delving into the intricacies of human rights, geopolitics, and U.S. politics. My transition to the United States marked a pivotal shift in my career path. I found myself enchanted in the field of immigration law, and I started working as a paralegal/legal assistant for a local immigration law firm in Philadelphia. This role allowed me to prepare an array of cases, drawing me closer to the immigrant community. It was this profound connection that solidified my resolve to dedicate my career to serving my community and working to enhance the immigrant experience in Philadelphia and beyond.


What do you do in your free time? 

As a literature major, I find solace and joy in the arts. I am an avid film enthusiast, a poet at heart, and a music aficionado. Culinary arts, however, hold a special place in my life—food is my love language. Whether I’m experimenting with new recipes or cooking for loved ones, I love expressing myself through flavors. I make my own kimchi and have a special recipe of chili oil. Philadelphia’s diverse culinary scene is a treasure trove for a foodie like me, and you’ll often find me exploring the city’s various cuisines and sharing my experiences on Google reviews.


What do you hope to accomplish in your new role? 

Joining the Office of Immigrant Affairs is more than a career move; it’s a calling. I aim to weave the fabric of our community tighter, fostering acceptance and inclusivity. I hope to help empower immigrants from the LGBT community, individuals with disabilities, and BIPOC, ensuring their voices are heard and their experiences valued. I hope to be a part of a future where all immigrants have equal access to opportunities and resources without being underrepresented, misrepresented, or marginalized. I am committed to giving back to my community, learning continuously, and striving for systemic change that uplifts every member of our society.

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