Fadi Kassar and his family, separated more than two years and afraid that a U.S. travel ban might keep them apart longer, are reunited, and on Friday night were met by at least 100 well-wishers who gathered at the Olive Tree in Milford to welcome them and to show their support.
U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy were among the dignitaries on hand to greet the family.
The little girls, ages 5 and 8, became two of the faces of the travel ban over the past week as politicians wrestled with the President over the legality of the executive order banning travel from certain countries to the United States.
Kassar, after working hard to get to the United States, had secured visas for his wife, Razan, and his two daughters to join him, and those visas were issued last Tuesday, on Jan. 24. The mother and daughters got on a flight from Jordan to Ukraine, heading to the United States, but their visas were rejected and they were returned to Jordan.
They later learned that they had been granted permission to come to the United States.
“We pulled every lever and pushed every button,” said Blumenthal, noting the myriad people and agencies that fought on the family’s behalf to get them here.
Finally here, the two wide-eyed girls were the center of attention when they were ushered into the dining room at the Olive Tree Friday evening, drawing applause and some tears as they were greeted.
The girls stood close to their parents, each girl holding an American Girl doll and a stuffed animal.
Sammer Karout, Kassar’s brother-in-law and owner of the Olive Tree, spoke for the family, saying they appreciate the help they received from politicians and attorney Renee Redman, an immigration lawyer from New Haven who fought tirelessly for the family. He also thanked the local government representatives, the human rights groups and the citizens who pushed for the reunion and showed their support.
“We’re really grateful to the greatness of the United States,” Karout said.
Murphy said the story that unfolded here Friday is about the perseverance of a man and his family.
“But there are children who will die because they cannot come to this country,” Murphy said, vowing to continue to fight the travel ban.
Kim Rose, a state representative in Milford, said Kassar is part of the Milford community. She welcomed his wife and daughters when she spoke to the crowd Friday night.
“America does not put an ocean between husbands, wives, fathers and their children, and America does not govern based on fear,” Rose said.
Stefani Corsi-Travali and Micaela Forshaw organized the gathering at the Olive Tree Friday night and said they were thrilled with the turnout. The two women said they felt strongly that it was wrong the family would be kept part. Olive Tree customers, they said they just wanted to show the family that Milford is behind them.