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Refugees in Kansas City frustrated with travel ban issued by Trump

Rachel Walker of St. Paul and her daughter Evelyn, 7, joined others in protesting an executive order signed by President Donald Trump restricting immigration from several Muslim nations Saturday at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Rachel Walker of St. Paul and her daughter Evelyn, 7, joined others in protesting an executive order signed by President Donald Trump restricting immigration from several Muslim nations Saturday at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The Associated Press

Aden Hassan waited for 10 days for family members to join him in Kansas City from a settlement camp in Kenya.

Hassan, 27, was born in Somalia but spent the previous 18 years with family at the camp in Nairobi.

Nearly a week-and-half-ago, Hassan resettled in the area with the help of Jewish Vocational Services, a nonprofit organization that provides immigration services. On Friday, hours before President Donald Trump signed an executive order to ban the entry of refugees from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, relatives of Hassan arrived in town as refugees to start a new life.

Tense moments of uncertainty were replaced with joy once Hassan was reunited with loved ones.

“I am very happy,” Hassan said Saturday with the help of an interpreter. “It has been my dream to come to the United States.”

The family hopes to stay in the United States. They don’t want to return to Kenya, Hassan said, and a return to Somalia is out of the question.

“I’m hoping for a better future for my family,” he said. “That’s not going to happen in Kenya or Somalia.”

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Not all was good for Hassan and family. A cousin whom Hassan considers his best friend was left in limbo by the executive order. The cousin was supposed to arrive from Kenya with other family members, but was not allowed to board a plane.

“I did not sleep last night,” Hassan said. “I am very worried about him.”

Omar Omar, 30, is a native of Baghdad, Iraq. He’s been in the United States legally for four years and nine months. It takes five years for a non-resident to gain citizenship in the United States. Omar, a former employee of a private defense contractor in Iraq, also has a brother enlisted in the United States military. The brother is stationed in Iraq.

The father of a seven-week old boy, Omar is owner of a local car lot. His best laid plans have played out in the United States, he said, but he is frustrated by Trump’s order.

“I don’t like it,” Omar said. “My brother serves this country, I served this country and (Trump) doesn’t appreciate us or our service. It wasn’t like that before.”

Hillary Cohen, executive director of JVS, said Hassan and Omar are just two out of countless people affected by the travel ban.

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JVS works with the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants to help people who have fled from persecution in their country. Refugees are heavily screened and vetted by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The process is stringent, Cohen said, and some refugees live in settlement camps on average for 15 years before being approved.

“The process is pretty long and drawn out,” she said.

Toriano Porter: 816-234-4779, @torianoporter

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