This Syrian Refugee Family Can Finally Feel Safe & It's All Thanks To President Obama
Like most fathers, Ahmad al-Abboud wants to see his children grow up safe. Up until now, however, even that hasn't been easy. As one of the estimated 9 million people who've fled the Syrian war, 45-year-old al-Abboud found his life completely changed by the conflict that began six years ago. Forced to leave his home because fighting between government and opposition forces put the lives of his wife and young children at risk, al-Abboud sought refuge in Jordan for three years. The al-Abboud family's life changed again late Wednesday night when they arrived in Kansas City, Missouri, as the first Syrian refugee family resettled in the United States under President Barack Obama's expedited refugee program.
Today, al-Abboud is dreaming about many of the same things other U.S. residents hope for: the chance to work, send his children to school, and start a new life. "America is the country of freedom and democracy, there are jobs opportunities, there is good education, and we are looking forward to having a good life over there," he told reporters at Amman Queen Alia International Airport before boarding a plane to the United States, according to the Associated Press. Al-Abboud said he wanted to learn English and find a job that would enable him to support his family. "I am ready to integrate in the U.S. and start a new life," he said.
The al-Abboud family may be chasing the American Dream now, but their journey has been anything but ideal. Al-Abboud escaped Homs in western Syria with his wife and children three years ago after the city had become a key battleground for clashes between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's troops and opposition forces in Syria's ongoing civil war. The historic city of Homs had been devastated by intense shelling and ongoing fighting since the military deployed tanks to suppress dissenters in May 2011, the BBC reported. Hundreds of civilians were killed in the conflict.
The family has lived in Mafraq, just north of Amman, Jordan's capital city, since then, but found it difficult to find work and survived largely on the food coupons provided to them as refugees.
Al-Abboud arrived in Kansas City, Missouri, with his wife and five children late at night after a lengthy flight from Jordan. A small welcoming committee was on hand to greet the family as they stepped off the plane.
Their arrival to the United States was made possible by an expedited "surge operation" Obama established for Syrian refugees. Last fall, the president pledged to take 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of September 2016 but is so far well behind schedule on meeting that goal. About 1,000 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the United States from Jordan since October of last year, a Fox affiliate in Kansas City reported, but that's as part of the typical resettlement process, not Obama's expedited program.
A temporary resettlement processing center was established in Amman in February by the U.S. Embassy and interviews roughly 600 people every day in an effort to help meet the 10,000 refugee goal. While the normal resettlement screening process for refugees can take 18 to 24 months, the surge operation has reduced it to three months, the AP reported.
After years of waiting, of struggle, of fear, the al-Abboud family can finally begin to rebuild their lives. "The father and mother are grateful to be here," Judy McGonigle Akers, the executive vice president of Della Lamb Community Services, an organization helping to resettle the family in Kansas City, told the Kansas City Star. "The father wants freedom, a safe place for his family, access to a good job and education — all the things anyone wants."