Syrian girls expected to reunite with Milford father on Thursday

Senator Christopher Murphy went to bat Monday night on the Senate floor for Fahti (Fadi) Kassar, a Milford father separated from his wife and two daughters by President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

Today, Kassar’s brother-in-law said the family will be reunited: The girls and their mother will be flying into New York on Thursday.

Sammer Karout, who owns the Olive Tree in Milford, said Wednesday that Kassar’s wife went to the Jordanian airline and asked if the family could fly to the United States. She was told an email would be sent to JFK, Karout said.

The family then got an email from US Customs and Border Protection saying that the mother and her two daughters had been approved for travel.

They should all be here Thursday, “hopefully,” Karout said.

Laura Maloney, a spokesman for Senator Murphy, confirmed the news.

"Fadi received good news this morning from the Customs and Border Patrol that his wife and two daughters can fly from Jordan to [New York] tomorrow," Maloney said. "Our office has been in touch with Customs and Border Patrol and the State Department, and we will continue to be until the Kassar family is safely reunited."

Reuters reported yesterday that the U.S. government granted waivers to let 872 refugees into the country this week, "despite President Donald Trump's executive order on Friday temporarily banning entry of refugees from any country, according to an internal Department of Homeland Security document seen by Reuters."

"A Homeland Security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the waivers, noting that the refugees were considered 'in transit' and had already been cleared for resettlement before the ban took effect," Reuters reported.

Maloney said her office believes the girls and their mother were among those 872 waivers.

Following is the Milford Mirror’s original article:

Monday night on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Senator Christopher Murphy held up an oversized photograph of two little girls who hoped by then to be with their father in Milford.

Instead, the girls, ages 5 and 8, are among those who cannot enter the United States after an executive order by President Donald J. Trump that bans travel to the United States from certain countries.

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’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.