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Future uncertain for Syrian family set to fly to Delaware February 9th

A Syrian refugee family scheduled to arrive in Delaware next week is now in limbo following President Trump’s executive order on immigration.

The family is stuck in Thailand, and the Islamic Society of Delaware and others poised to help them settle here are wondering what’s next.

Jewish Family Services of Delaware refugee resettlement volunteer coordinator Sarah Green says the Syrian family of three includes young parents and their six-month-old daughter, born while they’ve been in Thailand.

Credit Megan Pauly / Delaware Public Media
Delaware Public Media
Jewish Family Services of Delaware's Sarah Green gave an update on the status of the Syrian family Saturday. Green has been coordinating volunteer services for incoming refugee families.

“And now they have a plane ticket, and that means…it’s actually bad for their current situation because if they didn’t have that travel date, then there’s a possibility that after this stuff blows over they could have come," Green said.

The family was planning to fly from Thailand and arrive in Delaware Thursday, February 9th.

Members of the Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church had arranged a moving truck pick up and arrange furniture and household goods for the family next weekend. Now they’re deciding if they should hold onto the furniture for the next six months or so – or distribute it now to others in need.

Members of the church attended a cultural orientation hosted by the Islamic Society of Delaware Saturday.

Syrian American Lamis Alkurdi grew up in the US, but spent two years teaching English in Homs before unrest there began.

She discussed aspects of Syrian culture – like education.

“Almost every one of them – man, woman, doesn’t matter," Alkurdi said. "They have PhDs, they have doctorates, they’re well educated. So why would we not want these people to come and help the United States be what it’s famous for?"

She says the US is a melting pot of people who want to help change the world.

Credit Megan Pauly / Delaware Public Media
Delaware Public Media
Syrian American Lamis Alkurdi discussed Syrian culture Saturday.

“And to say, nope – no more of that just because of, you know, religion or because of ethnicity, it kind of defies everything America stands for," she said.

Some of Alkurdi's own family members living in Syria have tried to leave, unsuccessfully.

"We all feel paralyzed [like we can't help]," she said. "They have to put on blinders. This isn't the Syria we know. This isn't anything anyone can comprehend. It's straight out of a horror movie turning into real life."

HIAS - the federal resettlement agency helping Jewish Family Services of Delaware with its resettlement efforts - believes it’s unlikely the Syrian family of three will be able to come to the First Stateon February 9th.  Green says if that’s the case, their travel plans will expire.

“And they’ll have to go through the process again," Green said. "It’s like you get a stamp and then you move to the next station, and then you get the travel paperwork. It’s just a whole process. Once that expires, they have to do it again.”


However, ACLU of Delaware Executive Director Kathleen McRae said their attorney Ryan Tack-Hooper is working with Pennsylvania's ACLU chapter as well as the national ACLU organization to consider all legal options for the family. More information is expected Tuesday. 


According to Green, the Syrian family is the only family JFS (Jewish Family Services) has worked with that already has plane tickets.

A Christian Pakistani family they’re working with has received a confirmed travel date, but doesn’t have their plane tickets yet. Green adds it’s not up the family to pick travel dates: that’s up to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).


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