Immigrants: Trump out ‘ to divide us’
Those already in the U. S. are shaken by fears about the future
“We are hoping they will do many other great things to people who are hurting, the people who are dying for no reason, to people who don’t have a life.” Ibado Mahmud, a refugee who fled a Somali civil war in 1993
The nation’s immigrants watched in trepidation Saturday as President Trump’s immigration ban went into effect with abrupt results. His executive order temporarily banning all refugees — plus more specific restrictions on predominantly Muslim countries — drew legal action, protests and outrage on social media as travelers were stopped from boarding U. S.- bound planes and detained at airports. In parts of Arizona, New York and Kentucky, some immigrants already in the country were enveloped in feelings of fear and uncertainty.
IBADO MAHMUD Ibado Mahmud came to the United States as a refugee in 1993 after fleeing the civil war in her native Somalia and spending more than two years living in a refugee camp in neighboring Kenya.
Today, she is one of 7,193 Somali refugees resettled in Arizona since 1992. It’s a far cry from her old life. She recalls fleeing Somalia with her husband and two young daughters in December 1990 and then driving to Kenya with a caravan of nearly 50 other refugees. She saw people die and get raped.
“You heard the lions roaring every night,” she said. “I used to wrap me and my two girls in long clothes so if the lion came, he would have to eat all three of us.
Since coming to the U. S., Mahmud has rebuilt her life in Arizona and raised seven children. She owns her house and for the past 17 years has worked at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, alongside refugees from Iraq, Eritrea, Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia and many other countries.
But Mahmud worries that other refugees will not get the same chance because of Trump’s decision Friday.
“A lot of people are grateful to be here, to be part of this country. We appreciate what the United States did for us,” the 56year- old said. “We are hoping they will do many other great things to people who are hurting, the people who are dying for no reason, to people who don’t have a life.”
Mahmud said she has felt welcome in the U. S. but worries Trump’s executive orders could lead to discrimination against Muslims like her.
“What I am scared of is that he is going to divide us,” she said.
MASJID BILAL ISLAMIC CENTER At the Masjid Bilal Islamic Center in West Louisville, dozens of refugees from Somalia, Syria and Iraq gathered Friday afternoon for prayers. They said many were now cut off from ailing or impoverished family members who were trying to join them in the U. S., and some worried about an atmosphere of “Islamophobia.” ” Advocates were organizing rallies of support.
“It is devastating,” said Abanur Saidi, chairman of the mosque who also works with refugees for Catholic Charities and who is among thousands of Somalis in the Louisville region. “These are people that don’t have anything to do with terrorism. They are victims of terror, that’s why they are leaving their country.”
Others said they worried the Trump directive would be counterproductive.
“This policy seems to be directed at the Muslims — and I’m really concerned that this decision will strengthen terrorists and extremist groups, they will have more material to brainwash people that America is against Islam,” said Mohammad Babar, a Muslim leader in Louisville.
Those at the Bilal mosque Friday were signing a petition organized by a coalition of refugee groups seeking to get 10,000 signatures before a planned rally next month. Leaders are urging supporters to write letters to lawmakers.
“Our president is trying to divide us,” said Farhan Abdi, executive director of Muslim Americans for Compassion. He said refugees and immigrants are “doctors, teachers, lawyers, business owners, factory workers” who will “keep fighting to keep America welcoming.”
ROCHESTER, N. Y.
CHARLOTTE GOSSO Charlotte Gosso came to Rochester in December from the Ivory Coast via a refugee camp in Ghana; she was the first Côte d’ Ivoirian refugee here. Her prayers go to her country and her relatives there, the only ones she has.
There are only a handful of Ivoirians in Rochester, and it seems unlikely more will be arriving.
Gosso thinks of a woman she knew in the refugee camp in Ghana. It would take Gosso up to three days to travel to Accra, the capital, for bureaucratic matters, and there was no one to watch her sons while she was gone. The woman would help her, and give her some rice when she needed it to feed her sons.
The woman and her husband would like to come to the U. S., and Gosso would welcome them. She speaks only French and is confined to her apartment unless someone helps her with her 22- year- old disabled son, who is restricted to his bed.
Lisa Hoyt, director of the Catholic Family Center’s Refugee, Immigration & Language Services Department, described another case. A mother and seven children were supposed to arrive in Rochester on Tuesday. The family is Somali but is living in a refugee camp in Kenya. The oldest child is 19. The youngest is 2.
Their new life here is waiting. But someone in the group got sick, postponing their travel. “Think about what’s happened,” she said. “These people literally could have missed this opportunity ... through no fault of their own.”