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Politics & Government

Refugee Resettlement Coordinator Reacts To Trump's Immigration Ban

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When I visited Corine Dehabey last month in Toledo, Ohio, she told me her worst fear was that President Trump would close the door to all refugees from Syria. Dehabey runs an organization called Us Together. Last year, it helped 135 Syrian refugees settle in Toledo. Now Donald Trump's immigration order has made her worst fear a reality. So we wanted to check back in again. Hi, Corine.

CORINE DEHABEY: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: What was this past weekend like for you?

DEHABEY: The families kind of - they were kind of confused. They don't know what's happening. They don't know if they have go back themselves, what's going to happen with their families overseas.

We tried to be positive, but, at the same time, we gave them the truth. This is what happened, and this is what might happen. So some families - because they are waiting on their children to come here and join them - their married children, brother or sister - now everything is on hold. We don't know what's going to happen.

SHAPIRO: When you tell people that, when you give them this hard news that maybe their children won't be able to come join them in the United States, how did they react?

DEHABEY: Very sad. One family - they were expecting three of their children to come, and we told them...

SHAPIRO: Adult children?

DEHABEY: It might - adult children because they are married. He was very sad, and he was crying. And - but then he said, I'm hopeful. Maybe I'm going to pray. And he said, maybe things are going to be changed, and we'll meet them again. But then, on the other hand, we have families - other families - they said, if we you knew we're not going to be reunited with our families, we probably would have stayed there.

SHAPIRO: Really?

DEHABEY: Yes. And then, specifically, he said because he's waiting on his brother and his family to come. He said, if it's not going to happen, we might have to go back.

SHAPIRO: What do you tell someone when they say that?

DEHABEY: What can you tell someone? You know, we tell them, you know, to stay positive. Maybe things is going to be changed in the future. And then we tell them, of course, when you become an American Citizen, you can, you know, probably go and see them. But, at the same time, we're telling them Highest, Us Together advocating big time on behalf their - our fugitive program.

SHAPIRO: Highest is the parent organization that oversees the national resettlement program.

DEHABEY: Yes.

SHAPIRO: You say that you're encouraging people to stay positive. You're trying to stay positive yourself. There doesn't seem to be a lot of reason for positivity if you're a Syrian refugee right now.

DEHABEY: It's not. But you don't want to be discouraged either. Once you're positive, you can think better. You can think of ways. But if you want to be discouraged and lose hope, it's not going to help us either.

SHAPIRO: I know you sometimes get one-week notice - maybe sometimes even less - that somebody is coming to Toledo to be settled. Is there anybody who you were expecting to arrive this week who now is not going to show up because of this order?

DEHABEY: Actually, we were expecting two families today, and their flights were canceled. We went ahead with our plans - you know, renting apartments. We were trying to get the furniture from the church, gathering donations for them - mattresses. We had to cancel everything today.

SHAPIRO: What kind of conditions are these families living in now?

DEHABEY: Yeah, we have a family - Syrian family - from Turkey. They were supposed to come. And we have another one from Tunisia. So I don't know, to be honest with you, about their status. We don't know, before they come here, what's the situation in the asylum country.

SHAPIRO: If this ban on Syrian refugees coming to the United States is extended, does that mean that your organization, Us Together, will close up shop?

DEHABEY: We don't know. We're hoping not. We're hoping that we're going stay at least to help the families who are here. But if it's open for other countries, we're hoping so. But the majority of our clients here in Toledo are Syrian. So with all honesty, we don't know what's going to happen to the program.

SHAPIRO: Well, Corine Dehabey, it's good to talk to you again, and thank you for taking the time.

DEHABEY: You're welcome. Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Corine Dehabey runs the organization Us Together in Toledo, Ohio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.