As It Happens

Trump's travel order prevents Syrian refugee in U.S. from reuniting with family

Two weeks ago, she found out her family had finally been approved to join her in America, after years of separation. Then on Friday, Donald Trump changed everything with his executive order barring Syrian refugees from entering the United States.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the staff at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 25, 2017. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

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Two weeks ago, a Syrian scholarship student granted asylum in the United States found out her family had been approved to join her in America. They have been separated for years.

But on Friday, her hopes of reunification were dashed when U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring Syrian refugees from entering the country indefinitely.

In an interview with As It Happens guest host Helen Mann, she described her dismay at the travel ban. We agreed to withhold her identity to protect her family. Here is part of their conversation:

Protesters stand together at the Miami International Airport against the executive order that President Donald Trump signed clamping down on refugee admissions and temporarily restricting travellers from seven predominantly Muslim countries on January 29, 2017 in Miami, Florida. Demonstrators gathered at airports across the country in protest of the order. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

HELEN MANN: You found out just two weeks ago that your mother and sister had been approved to come to the United States. Can you take us back to that moment and tell us what it was like for you?

SYRIAN STUDENT: It was so happy. They live in Lebanon right now, and they were told this is a preliminary approval. If everything goes well as planned, they will be able to come here in two to six months.

I lived in Syria, I lived under a dictatorship, and we were afraid of doing anything and everything...I feel I'm having these feelings again right now.- A Syrian refugee in New York City on why she didn't want to use her name in an interview

HM: So then tell us what went through you when you heard about the executive order blocking Syrians without green cards from entering the U.S. indefinitely.

SS: ...I read the draft. And honestly, I started freaking out and calling my friends who are lawyers. And then, on Friday he signed it. I called my mom and I started crying. And my mom, she said, 'It's going to be fine, don't worry. We'll figure out a way to meet one day.'

With One World Trade Center in the background, people march in New York, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, as they protest against President Donald Trump's executive order banning travel to the U.S. by citizens of several countries. (Craig Ruttle/Associated Press)

HM: The president has made clear that the direction he sees the U.S. taking is to favour Christian refugees. How do you feel about that as a Muslim?

SS: It's a little bit hard. Maybe they don't have enough information of how it is back in Syria. The war has changed everyone's life, not only Christians. And my best friend is Christian. My roommate is a Christian Syrian. We're all the same. We live with each other, we have the same lifestyles, everything is the same. In my opinion, it's a little bit unfair.

HM: What will you and your family do now?

SS: I was talking to them today and I told them, maybe we can consider Canada. If they move there, then maybe I can meet them in Canada and try to start something there. 

HM: We're not using your name. Can you tell us what it is you're afraid of, if people were to learn it?

SS: The thing is, I don't know what is the future for the U.S. I don't know what is going to happen now. There is a lot of uncertainty. I lived in Syria, I lived under a dictatorship, and we were afraid of doing anything and everything. We would not even talk about something in a closed room, because we would think the walls would hear — that's what my dad used to say: 'The walls have ears. Don't say anything.' So I feel I'm having these feelings again right now, so I prefer not to use my name.

This transcript has been condensed and edited for clarity. To hear the full story, listen to the interview. 


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