A Fresh Start for a Refugee Family...
...And the Long Road Ahead
Ammar, his wife Fatma, and their five children lived peaceful lives in Aleppo, Syria, until the civil war reached their city in 2012. One morning, Ammar’s youngest daughter Lela showed up to school and found a pile of rubble there instead. The school had been hit by a bomb the previous afternoon when classes were still in session. That day, Ammar and Fatma decided they had to leave the city in order to save their children’s lives.
The family packed up everything they could fit in their car and made their way to Turkey, where they lived for almost four years. Life there was expensive, however, so Ammar and his two oldest sons worked 12-hour days, seven days a week, as tailors in a textile factory that made jeans. None of the children could go to school in Turkey, least of all one of their sons who is confined to a wheelchair and has significant special needs. So as things worsened back home in Syria, Ammar and Fatma realized they would not be able to wait out the war in Turkey.
After over a year of interviews and background checks, the refugee family was approved to resettle in the U.S. through WRDA. World Relief caseworkers found a small house that was big enough for the family, and volunteers from a local church in Naperville furnished it with basic goods. When the family arrived last December, they were overjoyed to have a safe, stable, and secure place to live. Ammar was brought to tears when the volunteer team showed up to welcome them on their second day in the U.S. And Ammar and Fatma could not believe it when WRDA’s school services coordinator told them their son could go to a local school for children with special needs!
“Being here in the U.S. is everything for my family,” said Ammar. “It is school for my children, health care for my son, and a peaceful life for my family."
Two months later, the family is finding that they will continue to face significant difficulties as they adjust to life in the U.S. Their older son enrolled in high school, but he will not be able to finish, because of his age. Ammar has secured a job at a local company, but he speaks very little English. Fatma has spent the past 16 years caring for her children with special needs, so now that they are at school, she will have to find ways to connect with the local community and learn English. And the family’s oldest son is still stuck in Turkey, so they will need legal assistance to reunite with him.
For all these reasons and more, this family – and many other families in our communities – will continue to need the help of WRDA, volunteers, and the local church as they rebuild their lives over the months and years that come. Will you stand with them?
The Executive Order on Refugees
A Brief Overview for Refugees, Volunteers, and Partners
The Executive Order signed by the administration on January 27 will impact refugees entering the United States now and in the future. The order prohibits new refugees from travel to the United States for 120 days while the government reviews the overseas vetting process, and it stops the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S. indefinitely. In addition, all individuals from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen are prevented from entering the country for the next 90 days.
In addition to these measures, the total number of refugees to be resettled in the United States this year has been reduced to 50,000 from the planned 110,000. The administration will announce a list of additional countries that it will no longer receive refugees from at some point during the 120-day evaluation period.
Refugees currently in the United States are safe and protected by American law. While refugee status does not expire, we encourage all refugees to apply for their green cards (after 1 year) and citizenship (after 5 years) as soon as they are eligible.
All people from the seven countries listed above should not travel abroad at this time if they do not have U.S. citizenship. This applies to green card holders who are Legal Permanent Residents. Anyone expecting refugee family or friends to come to the United States should not give up hope but should prepare for difficult news and a significant delay. If you have questions related to immigration, please contact the WRDA Immigrant Legal Services department at 630-462-7566.
For more information, please see World Relief’s statement on refugee resettlement here.
The Impact on WRDA's Refugee Ministry
As one of the nine organizations that partners with the U.S. government to help refugees become stable, self-sufficient, and well-integrated members of our society, a significant portion of WRDA’s public funding is connected to the arrival of new refugee families. Because of the moratorium on new arrivals, WRDA will be losing approximately 20% of its budget for serving refugees for the remainder of this fiscal year. In order to maintain our capacity to continue serving those families who are already here and our ability to begin welcoming refugees again once the moratorium ends, WRDA plans to raise about 50% of that lost funding from private sources. We will also be implementing staff reductions and adjusting our services to reflect the lower number of refugee arrivals in the future.
What You Can Do
Pray - Pray without ceasing for the refugees and immigrants impacted by these policy changes, as well as for wisdom for our leaders and our communities, that we will remain a welcoming place for the persecuted, vulnerable people of the world.
Advocate - Contact the White House or call your U.S. Senators and Representative to voice your support for policies that respect, honor, and welcome immigrants and refugees, while also ensuring the security of our country.
Connect - Engage with your friends and family members on these issues or connect your church or community service organization to World Relief DuPage/Aurora to learn more.
Give - As we reduce our staff and services to adjust to the new reality, help us continue to serve those who are already here and maintain the core of our ministry so we can continue to welcome new refugees when the moratorium ends.
Resources For Learning More
Global Refugee Crisis: Develop a deeper understanding of the global refugee crisis through the lens of a Christian perspective in “Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis”, co-authored by Stephan Bauman, and World Relief staff Matthew Soerens and Issam Smeir. Available here.
Executive Order: Read the entire text of the executive order on refugee resettlement here.
Additional information on the executive order, including translations in 17 languages, can be found here.
Refugee Screening Process: Through the example of Reema, Former Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson explains the process of screening Syrian refugees in this short, compelling video.