FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – A Milford man who is a refugee from Syria was reunited with his wife and two young daughters Thursday night after they had been separated for over two years — plus a few more unexpected days — due to President Donald Trump's executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations.
Fadi Kassar met his wife, Razan Alghandour, and daughters, Hanan and Lian, ages 5 and 8, with hugs and tears at JFK Airport in New York after they arrived on a flight from Jordan and passed through customs. The Hartford Courant reported that he greeted his girls with two American Girl dolls, donated by supporters, and his wife with roses.
"I'm very, very happy to see my family," Kassar told the Courant.
Despite securing approval to travel to the U.S., Kassar’s wife and daughters were stopped from boarding their flight last week in Ukraine as a result of Trump’s executive order.
U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal cheered the arrival of the family late Thursday.
“The Kassar family gets to breathe a huge sigh of relief," Murphy said. "I know the Milford community is ready to welcome them with open arms."
Trump's executive needs to be struck down, Murphy said.
"But there’s no sugar-coating this. It's outrageous that Trump’s dangerous executive order forced them through unconscionable hoops to get here," he said. "Tonight’s good news for the Kassar family is only a dim light of hope — there are hundreds of other families out there crying themselves to sleep because they won’t be able to see their loved ones. I won’t stop fighting until Trump’s dangerous ban is repealed.”
Blumenthal echoed Murphy's relief – and his outrage.
“I am so glad the Kassar family has been reunited, but countless innocent people are still in peril due to the Trump administration heartless, harmful refugee ban,” Blumenthal said. “I am excited to welcome the Kassar family home to Connecticut, but President Trump’s illegal, immoral Executive Order should be ripped up.”
Murphy's office worked closely with the Kassar family, immigration lawyers, the U.S. State Department, and U.S. Customs and Borders.
The junior senator from Connecticut put a spotlight on the family's plight Monday night in a speech on the Senate floor.
Murphy told how how Razan Alghandour and the young girls were stopped Saturday morning as they attempted to board a flight from Ukraine to the United States. They had been granted visas to come to the United States as refugees, but their visas were taken away from them and they were sent back to Jordan, where they had been staying.
“It's our decision whether these two little girls come to the United States or they go back to the war-ravaged home that their father left," Murphy said Monday. "It's up to us. It's not up to the President of the United States alone. Democracy allows us – allows for us to make a decision. This is about tens of thousands of refugees who are fleeing persecution and terror and torture. … It's up to us.”
Kassar, now 40, and his family left Syria in 2011 amid the country's civil war. They first went to the United Arab Emirates, but were forced to leave when he lost his job, Murphy said. Kassar set out to find a home for his family. He tried to enter Europe through Tunisia, but was detained and sent back to Turkey.
He then went to Brazil, and entered the United States by crossing the Mexican border, but was detained, Murphy said. Kassar was sent to Miami, where he was released. He then went to Connecticut and applied for asylum, which was granted in December 2015. He applied for visas for his family, which were granted on Tuesday, Jan. 24.
Murphy said that when Kassar heard about Trump's executive order, he paid an extra $1,000 to move their flight up in an attempt to get in under the wire, but was too late and his family was sent back.
“Imagine what those two little girls went through," Murphy said. "And imagine millions of other little boys and girls like them who had in their mind this place called America, a place that would welcome them, who would rescue them from the disaster that had become their lives, and imagine that dream that was literally hours away for these two little girls, extinguishing for millions others like them all around this planet."
Murphy said that there are 67,000 refugees currently in the pipeline to come to the United States.
"This isn't about a hundred or 200 or 300 or 400. This is about tens of thousands of refugees who are fleeing persecution and terror and torture," he said.