30 Refugee Kids Missed Their First Day of School & It's Our Fault

A refugee child flees her home country
DELIL SOULEIMAN AFP/Getty Images

I woke up today hoping news of Trump's executive order banning people from Muslim-majority countries -- including those with green cards -- from reentering the US was just a bad dream. As happy as I am that a federal judge temporarily blocked part of the ban Saturday night (preventing those detained in US airports from being sent home), all I can do is pray as I think about the futures of families and children -- whom the US already carefully investigated and vetted -- now hanging in the balance. Thirty-plus kids were supposed to start school nearby my home today, and now they cannot. 

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All because these kids come from countries like Iran, Somalia, Iraq, and Sudan, they are still detained overseas due to Trump's executive order banning refugees from resettling in the US for the next 120 days (Syrian refugees aren't allowed indefinitely) -- and banning people coming from Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for 90 days. And the brutal realities these families are desperately trying to escape are heartbreaking beyond belief.

My family moved to Buffalo, New York, a few months ago, and Buffalo is one of the top US cities to receive the Syrian refugees. Since we moved here, I've gotten involved with a local resettlement organization called the Jewish Family Service of Buffalo, which helps newcomers navigate this scary reality. As the proud wife of a first-generation immigrant, I believe my worldview expands with every new connection I make from someone whose path is dissimilar from mine.

There's something about interacting with these families in an up-close and personal way that makes you anything but dispassionate. We might not make the same meals or share the same faith, but our desires -- especially as moms trying to protect and provide for our children -- are what unite us. Our interests and ideals aren't often worlds apart like some would assume. 

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Sure, it becomes easy to compare refugees to Skittles when you shut yourself off from the chance to meet others from different walks of life who have similar goals -- goals that include the strong desire to see their kids (and their children's children) succeed. But just like one bad cop doesn't represent every police officer in every precinct, all immigrants and refugees aren't responsible for every act of terrorism that plagues this earth.

In fact, Muslims are not the main group to commit terrorist attacks in America. In fact, studies continue to show that non-Muslims are more responsible for acts of terrorism in the US. That should have us just as concerned about our neighbors next door as we are about the people who are oftentimes escaping persecution. 

The Trump administration cited the 2015 San Bernardino mass shooting as justification for a Muslim ban, even though the individuals involved were from Pakistan and Saudia Arabia (the country where most of the September 11 terrorists came from) -- both of which are not on the list of banned countries. To date, there have been no known terrorist attacks in the US from these seven banned countries for many decades that warrant such a bold action -- which is probably why it wasn't done in the past.

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I truly hope we as a country can have discussions about safety and well-being that are centered more around compassion and grace than disdain. I will continue to give back, both to people near and afar, any way that I can, and I will show my kids how to walk in compassion and love rather than fear and hate. Because that's what's going to make America "great again" and help the world be a more loving place for the future generations.

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