Delayed by the legal fight over President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban on incoming refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, a Somali family of nine landed late Wednesday at Kansas City International Airport to begin its American experience.
More than 30 local well-wishers bearing welcome signs, balloons and gifts greeted the family upon their arrival in Terminal C.
“Everyone seems well,” said Abdul Bakar, the director of refugee resettlement for Della Lamb Community Services, the family’s sponsor in Kansas City. He declined to identify the Somalia family by name until release documents were signed later in the evening.
The family of four daughters and four sons grabbed media attention for being prevented last week from departing Kenya, where they’ve lived several years in a refugee camp.
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The youngest child, who is 4, and his 7-year-old sister were born in the desert camp. The oldest siblings, brothers ages 18 and 17, will be placed in area jobs to help provide for the large family, Della Lamb officials said.
The family had been vetted for about two years before Della Lamb learned in November that Kansas City was the resettlement destination for 36-year-old mother and her children.
As signs early this week pointed to them being cleared for travel, the agency entered into a lease for a four-bedroom house in Kansas City’s Northeast area, where many African refugees are settled. On Tuesday, several volunteers converged on the house to scrub counters, set up a dining table with 10 chairs and haul in nine new mattresses with bed frames.
Within minutes of the family’s arrival, the children were trying on winter coats with price tags still on them, provided by Della Lamb. The small group of strangers there to welcome them also provided presents.
“I’m just here so that the family can see a smiling face,” said Scott Dawson of Mission. Dawson is active in the support group KC for Refugees.
The youngest refugee soon was juggling a donated soccer ball, a bag of gummy bears, balloons and a teddy bear.
Della Lamb later provided a hot meal of Somali food and thorough instructions on how to operate the faucets, appliances and heating units in the house they will share.
A federal appeals court in San Francisco heard oral arguments this week on constitutional questions regarding Trump’s immigration order and the extent of his authority to execute it. Meantime, a U.S. District Court’s action to block the travel ban remains in effect.
The appellate court’s ruling is pending.
The president’s order intended to suspend travel plans into the U.S. of all refugees for 120 days and, for 90 days, the immigration of citizens from seven predominantly Muslin nations, including Somalia.