Following President Trump’s executive order on immigration that sparked protests at airports across the country, stories of heartbreak and confusion continue to emerge from families impacted by the travel ban.
Trump's order halts all refugee resettlement into the U.S. for 120 days, imposes an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria, and suspends entry of immigrants from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen – all Muslim-majority nations – for 90 days.
Although more than 800 refugees will be given waivers despite these restrictions, thousands are in limbo and some are being told to go back to their war-torn countries where they fear they will be killed.
Khaled Haj Khalaf's 25-year-old daughter is one of those refugees, who was supposed to arrive at O’Hare Airport on Monday with her husband and one-year-old daughter. Now, they have been told they can no longer come to the US, and must return to Syria.
“She does not have a home and she's in limbo. She doesn't know where to go now,” Khalaf said with a translator at a news conference held by non-profit organization RefugeeOne on Tuesday.
The group has been assisting his daughter, who was initially supposed to resettle in America last year but was held back by an “administrative mistake.”
Last week, she saw the apartment in north suburban Skokie that was furnished for her family – including the crib complete with a stuffed animal and nursery full of toys – via FaceTime. Now, her father says they are stranded at a hotel in Istanbul with just $250.
“This family is sort of stuck with nothing right now, not knowing what their options are,” said RefugeeOne volunteer Alisa Wartick.
“It doesn't seem fair, it doesn't seem right. They're already vetted, background checked,” she added.
They join more than 300 people that RefugeeOne says may have forever lost their chance at fleeing their countries. Many of those refugees have only been given a small window of time to travel to the US – a deadline that is likely to be missed with an indefinite ban on Syrian migration.
Refugees who aren't Syrian still have a 120-day travel ban to wait out, though many of their travel deadlines will also expire in that time and they will have to start the vetting process all over again.
“Imagine what these four months is going to do to those 60,000 plus refugees who perhaps had a window of about three weeks or so to travel,” said RefugeeOne executive director Melineh Kano.
Refugees already in Chicago also spoke about their fears at the news conference Tuesday, including a woman who arrived in the country just 40 days ago, fulfilling her childhood dream of living in America.
“I'm afraid not only for me but for my family, okay, because we will be homeless now,” said Fatima Bikader, who worries that she and her daughter will be sent back to Syria, to a home that has been reduced to ruins.
“Where do we go? Why did he ban Syrians? Why? We don't know why,” she asked.
“It saved mine,” a refugee from Uganda said of his resettlement in Chicago, adding, “and it is my prayer that America will continue to save others like me.”
When asked about other options these families may have, the organization said some are looking into canceling their resettlement in America altogether and applying to Canada.