© 2023 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

In Connecticut, Syrian Family Reunited After Refugee Ban

Cassandra Basler
U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Democrats from Connecticut, greet the newly reunited Kassar family at Olive Tree restaurant in Milford, Conn., on Friday.

A Syrian mother and her two girls were flown back to Jordan from John F. Kennedy Airport after President Trump’s travel ban was issued at the end of January. They had waited more than two years for U.S. approval to join their husband and father in Connecticut. This past week, the state’s U.S. senators helped reunite the family.    

Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal welcomed the Kassar family at the Olive Tree restaurant in Milford on Friday.

Murphy said hello to the little girls who brought their new dolls to dinner.  

“We are so glad that you are here...You are going to have so much fun here in America.”

Murphy and Blumenthal were among members of Congress who asked State Department officials to return the Kassars to Connecticut.

Murphy says the executive order separated this family, even though they had legal paperwork to come to the U.S.

“We got this family here because immigration decided to open up a narrow exception for a class of people who were on planes when this order was enacted. But that’s only a handful of families. There are thousands of other little girls, just like these two girls, who are now stuck in war-ravaged countries facing potential death because of this order.”

Murphy and Blumenthal have asked Republican lawmakers to support legislation to permanently overturn the order. Blumenthal says Republicans have misgivings about the ban, too.

“As yet, they’re silent. In my view their silence is really unacceptable and I’m hoping to persuade them to speak out.”

Renee Redman, the Kassar family’s immigration lawyer, reached out to the senators for help last weekend. She was there with two other immigration lawyers when the girls flew with their mother into JFK Airport Thursday night.

“We were actually prepared to go to federal court if they didn’t let them into the United States. We didn’t know [what would happen],” Redman said.

Family, friends and the press waited. Redman says it didn’t come to that.

“It took about three hours for them to come out those doors. It was very exciting. It was very moving.”

The Kassar family will stay in Milford, where their aunts, uncles and cousins already live.

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.