Milford community welcomes reunited Syrian family
MILFORD >> There was a celebration for one Syrian family reunited after two years, but sadness last week for the 100,000 in limbo over a presidential travel ban affecting immigrants and travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries.
The week-old ban, which caused chaos at airports and protests across the country, took another turn late Friday when a Seattle federal judge temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s executive orders.
The ban is being challenged in several court cases, while lawmakers are filing legislation to overturn it or cut off funding to implement it.
All day Friday, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., toured the state listening first to about 100 teachers upset with Trump’s choice of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education, and later riding a bus in West Haven to hear from more constituents.
But the high point was meeting Hanan Kassar, 8, Layan Kassar, 5, and their mother, Razan Ghandour, at the Olive Tree Middle Eastern Deli in Milford.
“Seeing those two young girls clutching their American Girl dolls filled my heart and broke it,” Murphy said in a statement after the event.
Well-wishers stood and cheered for the family, as well as for Murphy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, also D-Conn., who along with U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, helped the three get into the country after they were caught in transit as the ban went into effect. They all had approved visas and were vetted as refugees.
Their husband and father, Fadi Kassar, stood glowing as state Rep. Kim Rose, D-Milford, read a General Assembly citation.
“America does not rip families apart. America does not put an ocean between husbands, wives, fathers and their children. America does not govern based on fear,” Rose said.
“This is a testament to the kind of caring community that we live in. I am proud to call Milford, ‘The small city with a big heart,’” Rose said. The country “is already great,” she said, a rebuke to Trump’s campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again.”
Rose said the elected officials fought for “basic American ideals.”
“You are fighting for families across the globe that have been split apart by an ill-conceived and poorly implemented executive order,” Rose said.
Dozens of residents filled the room as the family was introduced.
Blumenthal, Connecticut’s senior senator, said the other side of the story is the tens of thousands of children in camps and in cities caught in civil wars where they are enduring violence and harm.
America has the “opportunity and the obligation to do better and do more” in helping to relieve their suffering, he said.
“The religious-based immigration ban is making us less safe because those children are growing up in conditions where they will see us as the enemy,” Blumenthal said.
He said it is all the sadder because “refugees have built and shaped this country.”
Murphy praised Fadi Kassar for putting himself in danger to make sure his children could survive.
Kassar had a long, convoluted route to the United States until he won refugee status, after escaping the violence in Syria.
The journey separated from his family for two years until the three arrived in New York Thursday.
He said it is familiar to Americans because it is what their parents and grandparents or great-grandparents did, risking their lives “to make dangerous transit” for a better future.
“We are not going to rest until this scene is played out 100,000 times all over the country. That is how many people are waiting in the pipeline to become refugees, finding safety in the United States,” Murphy said.
Blumenthal made a pitch for citizen involvement in turning around the ban, and other actions of the new Trump administration.
Later in the evening, Murphy issued a statement on the court action on the ban as “wecome news.”
“President Trump needs to follow the law and rescind this executive order immediately.”
Murphy told the crowd that “these are dark times, but there is no anxiety or fear or frustration that you feel today that cannot be cured by political action ... rising up and saying enough is enough.”
Renee Redman, an immigration lawyer who represented the family, said “it shouldn’t be this hard. We shouldn’t require senators’ offices to make calls” in order for people with valid visas to enter the country.
Reach Mary E. O’Leary at 203-641-2577.