Brown: Trump won’t make America great again without refugees

SHARE Brown: Trump won’t make America great again without refugees

Suzanne Sahloul translates for Syrian refugee Khaled Haj Khalaf as he discusses his concern for his daughter and her family, who were blocked this week from coming to the U.S. by President Donald Trump’s order indefinitely barring Syrian refugees. | Maria Cardona/Sun-Times

Follow @MarkBrownCSTMany regard the civil war in Syria as the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II with 4.8 million people forced to take refuge in neighboring countries where most are stuck in poorly supplied camps.

The United States of America to which I pledged allegiance would do its part to take in its fair share of them.

But President Donald Trump says they’re not welcome here. None of them. For an indefinite period, America will be closed to Syrian refugees.

And the fearful Americans who elected him wave their flags and cheer.

OK, setting the Syrians aside for a moment, what about all the other refugees in the world, those huddled masses yearning to breathe free, who, by definition, have been displaced by other armed conflicts or political or religious persecution?

The president has decided that none of them can come here either for the next 120 days.


Follow @MarkBrownCSTIt doesn’t matter whether they’re a Baptist Chin family that fled Burma like the one I wrote about at Christmas or a pair of 20-something cousins from the Congo who have spent the past 18 years in a Tanzanian refugee camp after escaping civil war in their homeland.

For at least the next four months, and for however long it might take to reprocess them after that, they’re out of luck.

The president has shut down our nation’s refugee resettlement efforts entirely while he reassesses how to protect us from these victims, the current yearslong process having been deemed inadequate with scant evidence.

Better to be safe, take care of our own first, say the Trump supporters and wave their flags.

Those Congolese cousins, by the way, were expected to arrive here in Chicago in the next few weeks to begin their new lives, said Jessica Schaffer, director of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which would have been responsible for resettling them.

Now they are in limbo with thousands of other refugees who were in the processing pipeline to come to the U.S. when Trump issued his orders.

Among the others previously headed to Chicago were an Iraqi family of six — father, mother, daughters ages 13, 12 and 6, and an 8-year-old boy. They’ve been stuck in Turkey since 2008, hoping to be reunited with the mom’s sister, who already lives here.

They would have been here next week, but their trip has been canceled.

Khaled Haj Khalaf is a Syrian refugee who spent five years in the camps in Turkey before arriving here five months ago with his wife and three children.

Left behind in Turkey was Khalaf’s oldest daughter, Baraa, her husband and their 1-year-old child because of what they were told was a paperwork problem.

With the problem cleared up, the young couple and child were scheduled to arrive here Monday, where they were going to move into an apartment in Skokie in the same building where the rest of the family lives.

But when they arrived at the airport in Istanbul, after giving up their space in the camp and whatever possessions they had left, they were told they would not be allowed to come here.

Khalaf said his daughter’s family is stranded for now in an Istanbul hotel while trying to figure out where to go next.

Appearing at press conference arranged by local resettlement agencies, Khalaf said his wife suffered a mild stroke after hearing the news that their daughter had been blocked from coming here to join them.

Melineh Kano, executive director of RefugeeOne, said those like Baraa Khalaf whose trips have been canceled are being told “Go home.”

Of course, they no longer have a home, not even a spot in a refugee camp.

The refugee resettlement program is absolutely America at its best, and now it is dormant.

But by all means, wave those flags as you make America great again.

Tweets by @MarkBrownCST

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