Murphy works to reunite Milford family separated by travel ban

U.S. Senator Christopher Murphy held up an oversized photograph Monday night on the floor of the U.S. Senate of two little girls caught in the midst of a presidential executive order that bans travel to the United States from certain countries.

The two little girls, ages 5 and 8, could be here in Milford with their father; instead they have been banned entry to the country.

Murphy demanded that Congress take immediate action to block President Trump’s “harmful restriction on refugees and immigrants from certain Muslim-majority nations in Africa and the Middle East.”

The President last Friday afternoon approved a “sweeping executive order that suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen,” the New York Times reported.

That order impacted a Milford family, and earlier this week Murphy contacted the family of Fahti Kassar, a Milford resident from Syria, to work to reunite Kassar with his family.

“...they left [Syria] in 2011 due to the epic levels of violence that he was sure would kill his two little girls if he didn't leave,” Murphy told the Senate on Monday night. “His family went to the UAE, the United Arab Emirates, but the way in which it works is if you have a job you can stay, but if you don't have a job you leave. And when he lost his job, they were kicked out.”

That began a journey for Kassar and his family, Murphy said. Kassar tried to get to Europe via Tunisia but he was detained and sent back to Turkey. He eventually flew to Brazil and made his way to the United States by crossing the border with Mexico. He was detained, transferred to Miami, released, and eventually made his way to Connecticut, where he applied for asylum. Murphy said Kassar was granted asylum in December of 2015.

Murphy said Kassar’s family in Syria was tortured, and his neighborhood turned deadly.

“Fahti and his family were exactly the kind of people that this country historically has been able to rescue from war-torn countries, from terror, and from torture,” Murphy said. “His family had experienced torture. His children, were they to return to Syria, would face potential death.”

Murphy said Kassar went through all the correct legal processes when he came to the United States: He applied for asylum, which was granted in 2015.

“He followed forms that would allow for his wife and two daughters to follow and those visas were issued last Tuesday, on Jan. 24,” Murphy said. “Originally they had a flight that was scheduled to bring his wife and these two little girls to the United States [Monday] but last week when Fahti learned of the potential for this executive order, he paid $1,000 to move their flight up to Friday.”

Kassar’s wife and daughter got on a flight from Jordan to Ukraine, heading to the United States. But Murphy said their visas were rejected and they were returned to Jordan.

“They're back at their old apartment, these two little girls are, but they got rid of all their furniture,” Murphy told the Senate. “They got rid of all their clothes. Their neighbors have temporarily given them mattresses to sleep on. They don't even know where their suitcases are. And their father, who was ready to greet them at the airport here in the United States, may never see them.”

Murphy introduced legislation earlier on Monday that would reverse President Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigrants. The legislation has not yet been brought up for a vote.

Specifically, the bill would withhold any funding to enforce the executive order and declares it illegal based on the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which banned discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin.

“I believe that we can bring these girls here,” Murphy told his fellow senators.