Oklahomans With Loved Ones In Syria Talk About The War, Refugee Crisis

Wednesday, November 18th 2015, 7:42 pm
By: News 9

Oklahomans with loved ones in Syria are closely watching the war in that country and the growing debate in the U.S. about whether to accept refugees.

One of the terrorists in the Paris attacks reportedly snuck in with a group of refugees.

News 9 found a Syrian man whose lived in Oklahoma City for 30 years and religious leader who has relatives in Syria.

They told News 9 many of their loved ones live in constant fear.

Civil war rages in Syria, and half a world away, Oklahomans with loved ones living in Syria can only watch helplessly.

“The family that is in Syria apparently because of the conflict, it is hard to be in contact with them,” said Imam Imad Enchassi.

Echassi has a sister in Syria, his mother is Syrian and her side of the family is still there.

“Very tough, very tough situation,” Enchassi said. “Some of my family members, a couple of distant relatives, were killed, very close members lost their homes and livelihoods."

Enchassi worked on the Syrian border just this summer, helping in refugee camps.

For Magid Assaleh, who lived in Syria for 26 years, he tries to stay in contact with cousins, aunts and uncles who still live there.

He said many Syrians do not want to flee their country.

“They will never do that,” Assaleh said. “Because that is where they were born, they were raised and that's where their land is, it's their grand grandparents' land."

However, some Syrians do want to leave.

Both men said they know there is fear about helping Syrian refugees, but they fully believe states should help those fleeing the country.

They said it is a humanitarian answer to the crisis in Syria.

“Not everyone is ISIS, not everyone is extremist and there are extremists everywhere,” Assaleh said. “There is a way to screen those people and we should allow them in if they are fleeing violence."

Enchassi said as Thanksgiving approaches, Americans should consider their heritage.

"Every one of us is an immigrant and every one of us came here for a different opportunity, whether it's religious persecution or war, whatever it is,” Enchassi explained.

Republicans are pushing for a vote Thursday on a bill that would temporarily stop the White House program to bring up to 10,000 refugees to America.

The Obama administration said only 2 percent of the 2,300 refugees accepted so far are "single men of combat age."

The administration explained that Syrians seeking asylum in the U.S. are thoroughly interviewed, screened and checked against biometric databases, which can take up to two years to complete.