They are too busy learning to speak English and beginning their new life in America. However, many, refugees are well aware of the positions that presidential candidate Donald Trump has taken on Muslims and immigration.
Trump has proposed a ban on Muslims. He is also employing what he terms ‘extreme vetting’ of those who want to come to the United States.
One of those recent refugees, whom we’ll call Mazan, said, “With all respect to Donald Trump, what he’s saying is wrong.” He rejected Trump’s sweeping comments, lumping all Muslims under an umbrella of terrorism.
Jumana, his wife, said with a smile, “I would vote for the woman, not him.”
Not that she can vote; these refugees are years away from becoming citizens. There are many aspects of daily life the refugees can only do with massive support from residents of Connecticut.
I spent two days in the state with some of the refugees from the war in Syria. Their focus is on starting anew. Finding a job, learning a new language, enjoying some peace.
They beam when discussing their new home. Hashim’s teen daughter said, “I like America so much and I really wish to thank America for opening its arms for us and embracing us.”
There are many Muslims living side by side with other Americans already, her father said
“The American people should have no fear of us, no reason to be afraid.” Mazan said he was interviewed 10 times while in Turkey, mostly by American immigration and security officials.
The United States says it would like to take as many as 100,000 refugees, many from Syria, in 2017. Canada has taken a lot more. Mazan said when he saw his name on a list and where he was going he was “so happy.”
Connecticut — the go-to state for refugees
If Syria is the country to get out of, Connecticut is the U.S. state to go to for refugees.
Connecticut has accepted a large number of Syrian refugees: 43 in June, more than 60 this month, according to Connecticut Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services.
In fact, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy welcomed a Syrian family that had been turned away by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, now Trump’s vice presidential running mate.
Thirty Republican Governors and one Democratic Governor officially announced they would not be accepting Syrian refugees.
Malloy told CNN that’s “a national embarrassment.” The governor said a person is more likely to be killed by a deranged individual with a gun than a refugee. Malloy recently was honored with the John F. Kennedy Library 2016 Profile in Courage award for taking the Indiana-bound rejected family, which publicly thanked Malloy at the ceremony.
“I think the most un-American thing we can do in America is to elect Donald Trump as president based on the things that he has said about refugees, about people’s religion, about women,” Malloy said.
The reason Connecticut is a leader in co-sponsoring Syrian refugees is that there is a strong system in place to provide support for the newcomers.
Nonprofit agencies, church groups and volunteers are ready to do everything from driving refugees where they need to go, to teaching youngsters how to count in English.
“Sixty groups have offered to co-sponsor Syrian refugees in the state. To date, we have placed Syrian families with 17 community groups,” says Chris George, executive director of Connecticut Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services.
“They’re incredible,” he adds. “They smother them (the refugees) with compassion, love, and friendship.”
He said if Trump is elected, the program will continue. “No single person, not even the president of the United States, can bring this tradition down. This is our oldest and most noble tradition: welcoming refugees from all over the world. We will always do it.”
Views change with ‘a personal connection’
Mazan works a few days a week already at a garage repairing cars. He was a driver in Syria. Hashim works one day a week in a pizza parlor.
George, who spent years helping people in global hotspots, says the biggest challenge for many Syrian refugees is learning English. Volunteer Carol Gauthier teaches Hisham’s daughter English. She said after she saw the disturbing images of refugees dying and suffering while escaping war, she felt compelled to do something.
Connecticut officials believe if other states followed their model perhaps as many as 150,000 refugees could be welcomed. Vicky Difilippo, also a volunteer from a local church, said people develop fears based on what they see on the news. “Once you have a personal connection with the refugees … as people, your whole view changes.”
The parents can’t help but now dream. Hashim said his ‘desire is “to secure the future of my children.” Jumana, mother of three, including twin boys, says she wants them to be doctors, and her daughter a journalist after more education.
In a hot summer, Syrian refugee families are taken to a local ice cream stand. Along with the cones, a surprise from the owner. He hands Hashim two gift certificates for $40 in free ice cream. “Welcome to America… beautiful family,” he tells them before going back to work.