Refugees: A world away from loved ones, anxious and in limbo

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, February 1, 2017

President Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees from certain countries has brought stress, desperation, worry and confusion to a number of families in the United States and abroad.

Trump’s order temporarily halted the entire U.S. refugee program and banned all entries from seven Muslim-majority nations for 90 days. Many refugees in the U.S. had expected to reunite with relatives any day, but now their plans are on hold.

5-year-old girl: Far from mom and dad

Nagi Algahaim, a U.S. citizen who runs a gas station in Detroit, said he’s effectively stuck in Malaysia with his wife, a native of Yemen. Their 5-year-old daughter is at home with relatives in Detroit but the mother can’t travel there.

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Algahaim, 33, said he and Kokab Algazali, 28, have been in Malaysia since December, seeking immigration documents to qualify her for a green card in the United States.

Algahaim said Malaysia Airlines told them that while he can fly to the U.S., his wife cannot.

But he’s not leaving Kuala Lumpur without her.

“She’s been crying every day. It’s heartbreaking,” he said Tuesday.

Their daughter, who has health problems, hasn’t seen her mother since she was 8 months old.

“As an American, I’m disgusted,” Algahaim said. “I thought Trump was going to bring up America, not twist it around with fear and racism.”

Everything was set

Everything was set for the Syrian refugees to fly to the U.S.

A “processing error” that for months kept Baraa Haj Khalaf, her husband and baby daughter from joining her parents and two siblings in the U.S. had at last been taken care of. They were told to be at the Istanbul airport Monday for their flight to the U.S. — and a new life near Chicago.

So confident were they that they were on their way to America after fleeing Aleppo, Syria in 2013, Baraa and her husband sold or gave away practically all of their belongings.

In suburban Chicago, her 46-year-old father, Khaled Haj Khalaf, could hardly contain his excitement. “We were very happy,” he said through an interpreter Tuesday. “This is the land of freedom, the land of democracy.”

Even some Chicago mothers had volunteered to collect furniture, food, clothing and toys for the baby at their future apartment. Then came President Donald Trump’s executive order.

Now all the refugees’ plans and hopes are “in limbo,” said Melineh Kano, executive director of a group called RefugeeOne, which is providing support for the volunteers.

A family seperated

Abdalla Munye and his wife resettled in Georgia weeks ago but their 20-year-old daughter wasn’t able to join them. Her flight was scheduled to arrive this week. Now her trip is on hold.

Munye said his family stayed in refugee camps after fleeing the violence of Somalia, and his wife, Habiba Mohamed, said she watched her 11-year-old daughter be raped and killed.

They are concerned about their older daughter, Batula, who remains in a refugee camp in Kenya.

“Now that we are here and we have left her behind, we are in a lot of distress and worry,” Munye, 44, said through a translator. “The only thing I can request from the American government is to help me be reunited with my daughter.”