INDIANAPOLIS – Two weeks after arriving in Indianapolis, a Syrian refugee family publicly opened up about their journey Wednesday and the moment their trip was halted when President Donald Trump issued his first executive order, indefinitely banning all Syrian refugees from entering the U.S.
“We were in Turkey when we first heard about the decision,” Sara Hindi said, the family’s interpreter and case worker. “And we were extremely surprised. We were all packed up and ready to go. We got our travel tickets and everything and then all of a sudden we were told our flight was canceled.”
The family didn’t want to be fully identified for safety and privacy reasons, but Fathi, his wife Shereen and son Jowan said they fled Aleppo, Syria in 2013 to live in Istanbul, Turkey while seeking residence in the U.S.
The family arrived in Indiana with the help of Indianapolis-based Exodus Refugee Immigration.
“Life in Aleppo was very dangerous,” Hindi said. “Every time we would go out, I’d have my armor around my heart, and we don’t know if we would make it alive, if we’d come back home alive.”
Exact details of the Trump administration’s new travel ban, expected to be announced this week, are unknown, but reports indicate some sort of temporary refugee ban will likely remain.
“We’re quite concerned,” Cole Varga said, executive director of Exodus Refugee Immigration. “We hope the president will keep this program alive.”
Both refugee organizations and lawmakers are awaiting the exact wording of the new order.
Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) told CBS4 in an interview this week, he will withhold judgment until he reads the exact language.
“More broadly, we have to secure our border,” Young said. “This is a time of war. Sometimes we forget about it because this is a different sort of war dealing with threats of international terrorism. And it’s important we do properly vet people coming from different countries. It’s also important we respect the rights that are protected in the constitution like religious liberties.”
Meantime as Fathi, Shereen and Jowan adjust to live in Indiana, they join more than 200 other Syrian refugees who have resettled in Indianapolis during the past two-and-a-half years.
“Life here is very different,” Hindi said. “We feel like we have been reborn here. We got out. People smile at us. They’re so friendly. There’s no war here. We feel at peace here.”