An Iraqi man planned to come join his wife and child in Michigan
later this year. They’d been issued special visas because of his wife’s
work as an interpreter for the U.S. military in Iraq. But when word
started getting out last week about a looming crackdown on immigration,
he changed his plans. By Wednesday, he was doing everything he could to
get out of Iraq immediately.
“It took time to travel and to get
the ticket,” says Anya Abramzon, executive director of Jewish Family
Services of Washtenaw County, the resettlement agency working with the
man’s family. “So when he got here [to the U.S.], that happened right
after the ban was signed.”
man was detained overnight on Saturday, Abramzon says, in the
Philadelphia airport. Behind the scenes, she says there was a “massive
effort” was underway by the ACLU, JFS, and the Philadelphia mayor’s
office to get him released.
Sunday morning, he was on the 10:30 a.m. flight to Michigan. Now he’s home with his family.
others aren’t as fortunate. A family of six Iraqi Christians were
scheduled to arrive in Washtenaw County in the next few days. Now
they’re stuck in Turkey, Abramzon says, waiting to see what happens
At least 16 more refugees from Syria and Iraq were
scheduled to be resettled in Metro Detroit in the next week or so, says
Sean de Four, VP of Children and Families at Samaritas. That includes
the wife of a Syrian man who’s already resettled in Michigan.
refugees and immigrants who are already in this state, are asking what
this means – both for their family overseas, and for their own safety
here in the U.S.
“We’ve heard from so many of our clients who are
here,” Abramzon says. “They have so many questions and so many
concerns. They’re worried they’re not going to be able to naturalize.
That they’re going to have to register [as Muslisms]. That they’re not
going to have equal treatment.”
Abramzon and her team are trying
to organize a community-wide meeting to address those concerns. They’re
holding off until the end of February, when hopefully the situation will
be a little bit clearer, says Shrina Eadeh, Director of the
Resettlement Program at JFS.
“We’re not going to do it right away
because things are still trying to be worked out, and we’re trying to
provide information for our community about what resettlement will look
like,” Eadeh says. That meeting will be open to the wider community too,
she says, not just refugees. “People will receive some direction.”
Monday, they’ll also start talking with refugees at daily English
classes. “They’re 100% all worried, I can bet, about family that they
still have overseas,” Eadeh says. “And those families that have applied
for refugee status and whether they can come or not.”
She’ll be honest with them, she says, that not all the answers are clear yet.
I’m going to tell people, that I’m going to work every day to make sure
that we advocate for them and we ensure that people are safe,” says