Some Confusion, Frustration After Executive Order On Refugees

Bassel Albahra, a Syrian and small business owner in Parma. (Tony Ganzer / ideastream)
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There is still much confusion around President Donald Trump’s Executive Order temporarily barring citizens from seven largely Muslim countries, and refugees, from entering the U.S. 

After the President signed the Order Friday, came news that a Syrian family had been scheduled to leave a refugee camp in Turkey Monday, to arrive in Cleveland Tuesday.

Danielle Drake is community relations manager with US Together, the Cleveland agency helping resettle that family.

DRAKE: “They were registered as refugees, they’ve been living as refugees in Turkey since 2014, going through the process, applying for resettlement…they’re not allowed to come.  No one’s allowed to come.”

Drake says there are still many unknowns in application of the Executive Order.  While the specifics are still clarified and challenged in court, some refugees who are traveling abroad are worried they can’t come back.

DRAKE: “There’s a high school student who has a Green Card, originally came to Cleveland as a refugee from Iraq.  She is in the Middle East visiting family, there was a death in her family. I don’t know if she’ll be able to come back into Cleveland.  I’ve contacted the school and told them if she has issues we’ll get an attorney to try to help her, but it’s possible that she won’t be able to return.”

The concern that future travel could leave individuals in a legal limbo is also worrying Bassel Albahra, a small business owner in Parma from Syria. 

ALBAHRA: “A lot of my friends, usually they want to visit family, they have business outside, now they’re all stuck here, they don’t know what to do and this is a problem for now.  They just want to understand about the ban, is it going to be over 90 days, is it going to stay that way forever? How’s it going to be? It’s going to be a bad situation for us.”

Albahra attended college in Toledo in 2001, and didn’t return to Syria until 2009, before the civil war.  He says he had hoped to work with the family business, and raise his kids, who were born here, back home.

ALBAHRA: “The regime destroyed or demolished our factory...at that time I had a tourist visa to the U.S., so I thought to bring my family, my wife and my kids, to find them a better life, so I thought to come over here.”

Albahra remains in the U.S. on Temporary Protected Status granted to people who can’t go home because of the danger it poses.  He says he doesn’t think his status will change because of the Executive Order, but he does worry about what may come. 

Despite the uncertainty, he’s heartened by his community here.

ALBAHRA: “They're all welcoming us, and actually that's what I appreciate here in this country. Always government is different...so we're just going to have to see and wait.”

Waiting is a big part of the reality now for resettlement groups like US Together.

The organization’s Danielle Drake says among the unknowns are financial concerns.  She says a big part of their funding comes from their ability to resettle families and individuals, and if they can’t, it could lead to lay-offs.

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