I’ve been hesitant to write this story. The reason is quite selfish. It’s a sad story and difficult to write without tears.
Many of us look at our lives in the USA and think what a great place to live. We have freedom, our families, and unlimited opportunities. Food is plentiful, helping hands abound, we’re not running from bomb sirens or drug lords burning down our neighborhoods.
Over the past 14 months, I’m sure many of you have felt as I do, heavy-hearted. I wake up each day focused on making and being the change I want to see in the world. Some days the news of the current politics steers me into the direction of a sadness that I’ve only felt during the death of a loved one and leaves me paralyzed.
Today was one of those days. I woke up from a week away and anxious to see everyone at The Welcome Project. When I noticed one of our Syrian students was missing I made a mental note to check on her. What I learned was that she was home and just didn’t understand why she should even bother coming to an art class.
I’ll refer to her as Ms. M. Ms. M. left Syria after witnessing her husband being bombed in front of her eyes. Can you imagine, watching the person you have lived with for 40+ years flying in the air in multiple pieces and finding their hand laying on the ground? Could you continue to live, make it across a country on foot to get to safety and what would drive you to do so? As Ms. M. explained to me she did it for her 5 adult children. They had lost one parent and she was still alive and they had each other. This is how they escaped the madness and insanity. They looked into each other’s eyes and encouraged each other to keep going.
Fast forward two years, Ms. M. is now living in a refugee camp still weeping over her loved one and reliving his death multiple times a day. Her sons come to her and inform her that they have a chance to start again in a new country, the USA. Excited they complete the application for her, her 5 children, their spouses and her grandchildren. Her youngest son and her are the first to leave the camp for their new home. Her youngest son is told his very pregnant wife can’t leave just yet but he’s assured that they’re next. So off to the USA the two of them come while the others have to wait to join them in the USA.
Ms. M. and her son are excited. They can set everything up for the remainder of their family. Then the election hit and Syrian refugees were banned, indefinably, including the pregnant mom who has now delivered her first child alone in a camp.
Ms. M. and her son are no longer excited. Now they’re fighting a system that is torturing them. They can’t leave the country and return to the refugee camp to be reunited with their family and they can’t get their family here. Despite the horrific terror they faced in Syria and the poor conditions of living in a refugee camp, they had each other. Now they’re alone.
When I met Ms. M. my goal was to provide her with as much happiness I could to keep her going each and every day. I felt this was what I could do to offset a situation that I really couldn’t control. For a while, it worked. I began to see her coming out of her shell and her tears turned to laughter; song and sometimes I could get her to dance. When her grief overtook her, I was there to hug her along with all of the other friends she had made.
She and her son applied for a green card and learned there still isn’t an update on the remainder of their family other than it wasn’t looking good. Stop and imagine this. Imagine you and your spouse being separated during the birth of your first child. Think about being the one being stuck in the camp, would you be jealous of your mother and brother for making it to the USA and not you? You might say no but imagine sitting in the same tent for 4 years and what this might do to your thoughts.
What is happening to this family is torture. Ms. M. and her son are being tortured each and every day they’re separated. If we had stolen them it’d be called kidnapping. We didn’t steal them but we did promise that they’d be reunited with their family. There are 1000’s of Ms. M.’s and Mr. M’s., living in the USA without knowing or having the hope of seeing their loved ones including children they have yet to meet.
So today I weep. I weep for Ms. M., those who have been taken into deportation, those living in paralyzing fear and those that have such anxiety they’re spending time in the hospital for the impact it’s having on their bodies. I wonder, will they survive, will I? Can they hold it together long enough to see if the citizens of this great country work to change this political climate?
So friends as you’re out and about in your neighborhoods and see someone that looks different; smile, say hello and befriend them if you can. This is a tough time for so many. Think long and hard before saying something like “you must be so happy to be here now.” This is no longer true for so many. Speak out against this and let the politicians know this isn’t America you know or the one our Constitution is built on. If you’re religious, pray daily for our newest neighbors, send energy and love their way.
So yes, this is a sad story but I felt I’d be doing a disservice to those new neighbors that I’ve come to love, by not sharing this. Everyone deserves to see the reality and impact these bans, constant bantering over a border wall, ICE and our current leadership has on these HUMAN BEINGS.