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refugees

President Trump's temporary ban on the admission of refugees is not going over well with the churches and religious organizations that handle most refugee resettlements in the United States.

"The faith groups are going to kick and scream and object to every aspect of this disgusting, vile executive order," says Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS, a Jewish refugee society. "[It] makes America out to be something that it is not. We are a country that welcomes refugees."

KUOW photo/Liz Jones

Every day, newly arrived refugees just show up at Marwa Sadik’s office, at the Iraqi Community Center in Kent. Many are Iraqi, like her. Or from Syria, where she grew up.


Bill Radke speaks with KUOW reporter Liz Jones about the potential fallout from President Trump's upcoming immigration executive order.  The order will likely severely cripple the U.S. refugee program and curb immigration from the Middle East. Jones spoke with immigrant families about their fears and plans for an uncertain future. 

After a presidential campaign that divided the country on immigration, some of the most fervent anti-refugee advocates say their views and agenda have now moved into the mainstream under President Donald Trump. His appointments, including top White House advisers and his nominee for attorney general, are powerful allies who support suspending the U.S. refugee resettlement program — the largest in the world — or an outright ban on accepting refugees from "terror-prone" countries.

KUOW Photo/Lisa Wang

They spent the first hours of Donald Trump's presidency waiting.

First they were in the cold, snaked outside McCaw Hall. A little boy  seemed desperate to splash in a nearby water feature.  Then they waited inside—for hours—as volunteers distributed snacks, waiting themselves for instructions.

People wait to attend a citizenship workshop in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Lisa Wang

On Inauguration Day, the city of Seattle hosted a free legal clinic for immigrants and refugees. Hundreds of people gathered at McCaw Hall, many seeking to become citizens. We asked attendees what's at stake for them, as Donald Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States.

Kim Malcolm talks with Cuc Vu about why the city of Seattle is hosting an event on Inauguration Day to provide free legal advice to immigrants and refugees. Vu directs Seattle's Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Long before Seattle was a sanctuary city, churches here sheltered immigrants from Central America.

Carlos Mejia and his wife Ercilia moved here in 1983 from El Salvador, which was in the throes of a civil war. Patricia was seven months pregnant at the time; she later gave birth on the third floor of University Baptist Church.

I was standing by the airport exit, debating whether to get a snack, when a young man with a round face approached me.

I focused hard to decipher his words. In a thick accent, he asked me to help him find his suitcase.

As we walked to baggage claim, I learned his name: Edward Murinzi. This was his very first plane trip. A refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, he'd just arrived to begin his American life.

Cari Conklin is helping to throw a birthday bash for Syrian refugees in the Seattle area.
KUOW photo/Liz Jones

More than 200 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Washington state. And this New Year’s Day, many in the Seattle area plan to gather for a special party. It’s an important date, but not why you might expect. 


When Almothana Alhamoud, a 31-year-old Syrian data analyst, arrived in Chicago two years ago after fleeing the Syrian war, he jumped at his first job offer, a nightshift cashier at a convenience store.

"When I came over here I just want to find anything to survive," he says over dinner with his family in Chicago. His parents and two sisters fled Damascus six months after he did. The family has applied for asylum in the U.S.

Each Wednesday at St. Francis Episcopal Church on the north side of San Antonio, dozens of refugees from all over the world come for free care at the Refugee Health Clinic.

Students and faculty at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio have teamed up to operate one of the only student-run refugee clinics in the country.

Rita Zawaideh of Salaam Cultural Museum
KUOW Photo/Katherine Banwell

Bill Radke talks with Rita Zawaideh, who runs the humanitarian nonprofit Salaam Cultural Museum in Seattle, about the current struggles of Syrian people in Aleppo. 

KUOW photo/Liz Jones

Since the election last month, some day laborers have said they don't feel comfortable speaking Spanish in public. 

“And that’s here in the City of Seattle, riding on public transit," said Marcos Martinez, Executive Director of Casa Latina, a Seattle non-profit that helps immigrant day laborers find jobs. "That just shows the extent of the problem we have.”


The German government has for the first time deported Afghan asylum seekers, sending 34 back to Kabul on a chartered flight last night. Hundreds of protesters — both Afghan and German — marched against the deportations at Frankfurt Airport where the flight departed.

The migrants' requests for asylum had been denied.

KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Kim Malcolm talks with attorney Karol Brown about how President Elect Donald Trump's proposed immigration policies could affect immigrants living in Washington state. Brown is an immigration attorney with World One Law Group in Bellevue.

Immigrants packed a gym in Bellevue on Thursday night to talk about Trump's immigration plan.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Hundreds of immigrants packed a school gym on Thursday night. But not for something normal, like a basketball game.


Brian Wahlberg gives daughter Luciena a good view of the proceedings as the crowd sings at Cal Anderson Park in Seattle.
KUOW photo/Gil Aegerter

In the liberal bastion that is Seattle, the response to the election was acute. People cried openly on buses and in cafes. Some took time off work to mourn in bed. It wasn't that their candidate had lost, we heard again and again, it was that they feared for the future.

A newly released report describes disintegrating mental health among dozens of the more than 1,100 people being held by Australia on the Pacific island nation of Nauru.

The report out Monday from Amnesty International is based largely on interviews conducted by Anna Neistat, a researcher working for the watchdog group, in July with 58 people being held on the island. It focuses on self-harm, calling it "shockingly commonplace."

On Thursday, the U.N. General Assembly welcomed Antonio Guterres of Portugal as the new secretary-general of the U.N., replacing Ban Ki-moon.

In a short speech expressing his "gratitude and humility" to the assembly for the five-year term, he highlighted his priorities: humility, empathy for the underprivileged and the "empowerment of women and girls."

The European Union and the government of Afghanistan have agreed to a plan that could send tens of thousands of asylum seekers back to Afghanistan, even as fighting in some parts of the country intensifies.

Texas has announced that it is withdrawing from the federal Refugee Resettlement Program, citing security concerns.

Gov. Greg Abbott's announcement means that "refugees will continue to come to Texas, albeit without the state acting as the middleman between federal dollars and local resettlement agencies," according to the Austin American-Statesman.

My dad's Cinderella story: Finding love in Somalia

Sep 28, 2016
Courtesy of Zubeyda Ahmed

My dad's life story is kind of like Cinderella’s. 

My dad, Abdul-Basit Hassan, grew up without a mom, worked for an evil relative and found his princess in the least expected way. 


When Donald Trump Jr. compared Syrian refugees to poisoned Skittles, the condemnation was swift — critics called the tweet glib, dehumanizing, inaccurate, cruel.

Turns out they could have called it something else: copyright infringement.

The photo featured in the tweet was taken, without permission or credit, from a man named David Kittos.

And Kittos tells the BBC he was once a refugee himself.

Osman Mohamed, of Somalia, and his three daughters, ages 2, 4 and 5. Osmon hoped to find paradise in Seattle, but in his first year, his family witnessed a shooting and he was hit by a car.
KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

For many refugees, the first year can feel like a race against the clock to set up a new life.

You get a little cash up front and a few months of help from a social worker.

Then, you’re mostly on your own.


Tu Tu - people from Burma don't have last names – at his cousin's two-bedroom apartment in Kent. His arrival upped the number of people living there to nine.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Tu Tu is his full name, because Burmese people don't use last names.

He is 20 when he arrives in Seattle. With his long bangs and torn jeans, he looks American.

It terrifies him that he can’t speak English. How will he get by if he can’t communicate? It’s a fear he pushes out of his mind. He’s not supposed to be a kid anymore.

Neda Sharifi Khalafabadi at SeaTac Airport upon her arrival to the Seattle area.
KUOW Photo/Meryl Schenker

The couple won't say why they left Iran.

Did something bad happen?

"Yes," Peiman Karimi, the husband, says. "Not me. To Neda.”

Neda Sharifi Khalafabadi says she doesn’t feel comfortable to talk about it because it would bring everything back. All she says is her case is religious. The rest is confidential.

The U.S. defines a refugee as someone with a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country. Iran is a majority Muslim country. Religious minorities face discrimination, surveillance and arrest.


Osman Mohamed of Somalia.
KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

A refugee move to Seattle.

He thought it would be paradise.

Instead, he found guns, violence and struggle. 

Washington refugees world map
KUOW/Kara McDermott

“Sincerely, if I told you the truth, you cannot achieve or reach your aim if you don’t struggle. So now, I’m struggling.”

Those are the words of Osman Mohamed, a refugee from Somalia who settled in Washington this year with his wife and three children. He grapples with past trauma and with moving forward in a new country.

We followed Mohamed's story and also those of Tu Tu from Myanmar (Burma) and an Iranian couple, Peiman Karimi and Neda Sharifi Khalafabadi, for their first eight months in the U.S.

How refugees make it to Washington state

Sep 7, 2016
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Bill Radke speaks with Sarah Peterson, Chief of the Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance at the Department of Social and Health Services, about the journey refugees must go through to get from their home country to this state. 

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