A Syrian Refugee Family Arrives in Portland Just Before the Door Slams Shut

President Trump’s travel ban makes them fear that chaos has followed them across the ocean.

Mohammed Abdulhayy and his son Yazen. Mohammed prays each day “for Americans to stay safe and calm.” (Joe Riedl)

On Dec. 19, Mohammed and Shamsa Abdulhayy arrived in Portland.

The couple is from Idlib, Syria—just 37 miles from the city of Aleppo—where a bullet struck Mohammed in the neck, leaving him paralyzed. For four years, they lived in Turkey, seeking refugee status in the United States.

They received it—barely. The Abdulhayy family is among the last Syrian refugees to enter Oregon before President Donald Trump's executive order on Jan. 27 banned Syrians and people from six other nations from entering the United States.

In their bare East Portland apartment, Mohammed, 35, sits in his electric wheelchair. He wears a leather jacket over a sweater, a green blanket draped over his legs. Shamsa, 34, in a silky beige hijab, lifts a bottle of water to his lips to drink. They speak Arabic through an interpreter as their 4-year-old son, Yazen, in a green flannel shirt and tiny jeans, splays out on the carpet, watching cartoon dinosaurs on a smartphone.

They heard that America was good to refugees, that in America, "they respect the human person," Shamsa says. "They love refugees," she says. "They treat them as a family."

Related: Two families bound for Portland are stranded in a Ukrainian airport after Trump's travel ban.

But Trump's travel ban makes them fear that chaos has followed them across the ocean. They hear that some Americans think Muslims are terrorists.

"In our holy book, it says when a person kills someone, they kill all other people—all the people on the earth," Mohammed says.

Shamsa points to her son. "What did [children] do to get hated?" she asks.

For more information about refugee families supported by Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, visit www.irco.org.

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