By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Barkat Mohamed held his daughter, Khadra, in his arms for the first time last Friday, Feb. 3, at the Louisville International Airport.
That heart-melting moment almost didn’t happen.
When President Donald Trump issued an executive order suspending the refugee resettlement program in the U.S., Khadra and her mother Zemzem Abib, refugees from Ethiopia, were just days away from beginning a new life in the U.S.
The White House announced Jan. 31 that 872 refugees who were already scheduled to arrive when the order was issued would be allowed entry. Officials from Catholic Charities of Louisville weren’t sure if Abib and 3-year-old Khadra were included in that number. When the two made it to Houston Thursday evening, it was the last day of a six-day grace period for the refugees who were already approved when the order was issued.
Mohamed last saw his wife nearly four years ago, when he departed for his new life in the U.S. She was pregnant at the time.
With tears in his eyes and an exuberant smile on his lips, he happily chatted with well-wishers and reporters alike at the airport Friday.
He said when he heard news of Trump’s executive order halting refugee resettlement, he “was very sad.”
“Today is the first day I see my child. I appreciate everybody that participated today,” he said, gesturing to a crowd of well-wishers gathered outside the airport’s security checkpoint.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz was among the dozens of people welcoming Mohamed’s family to Louisville.
Archbishop Kurtz said the reunion was both a gift to the family and to the city of Louisville.
“There is a need for us to continue to welcome refugee families and always treat each person with dignity,” he said.
Talking to Mohamed, Archbishop Kurtz said he welcomed his wife and child and added, “We want you to be part of the community.”
The president’s executive memorandum issued Jan. 27 suspended the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and banned from entry all citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations — Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia — for 90 days.
When Abib and Khadra arrived Feb. 3, they were thought to be the last refugees Catholic Charities of Louisville would welcome during the suspension of the refugee resettlement program in the U.S.
That changed later that day when a federal judge in Seattle temporarily blocked Trump’s order. Over the weekend, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco denied the administration’s request for an emergency stay.
Catholic Charities of Louisville planned to assist in the resettlement of 700 refugees this fiscal year (which began in October), according to Colin Triplett, director of the agency’s Migration and Refugee Services. So far this fiscal year, about 40 percent of those refugees have been resettled.
With the ban lifted, as least temporarily, Catholic Charities’ Migration and Refugee Services was scheduled to welcome several more arrivals this week. As of The Record’s press deadline, a family of seven from Syria was scheduled to arrive Feb. 7. And, refugees from Somalia and Bhutan are scheduled to arrive next week.