Refugee In OKC Concerned About Immigration Ban

Tuesday, January 31st 2017, 6:20 pm
By: Grant Hermes

Oklahoma has taken in thousands of refugees in the last 10 years, but the new travel ban has many of them worried.

“There's a reason we left that country and come here. We want to start here as a human. We want to be here as a human,” Assal Ali said.

Ali stood in the retail store where she works in Oklahoma City, a city that she’s called home for more than 10 years.

When Ali fled Iraq in 2006, she didn't know what was in store. A culture adviser to U.S. troops in the beginning of the war in Iraq, she was threatened and attacked for helping Americans.

“They come into my house and shoot my house. They kill my dog. They kill my brother. I don't want to remember,” Ali said.

Her English is clear but marked by a distinct accent.

Ali, who is now a U.S. citizen, fled to Oklahoma as one of the more than 300 refugees the state takes in each year. Each person is looking for the same things.

“I find it until now, justice and safe,” she said.

The until now she was talking about was the president's travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries and a ban on accepting all refugees for 120-days.

“I'm safe here and my family, but about justice I'm a little concerned because they're going to separate refugee from the American citizen," she said.

Refugees go through a complex 20 step system with vetting done by dozens of U.S. and international agencies. In all, it can take up to two years to be admitted.

“Many refugees that are living in Oklahoma City are fleeing violence. So this is the common misconception that maybe they were proponents of violence or maybe they were involved in these things but actually they're victims of this violence,” Brad Bandy said.

Bandy co-directs the Spero Project, a resettlement group in Oklahoma City. He said the ban puts lives at risk and doesn't live up to the Oklahoma Standard.

“How do we love our neighbor? I think it's part of our culture here in Oklahoma and part of our humanity,” he said.