WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) demanded on Monday night that Congress take immediate action to block President Trump’s harmful restriction on refugees and immigrants from certain Muslim-majority nations in Africa and the Middle East. Murphy told the story of Milford resident from Syria, Fadi Kassar, whom his office is assisting. Kassar’s wife and two daughters – ages 5 and 8 – were stopped from boarding their flight to the United States as a result of the executive order despite securing refugee status.
“It's our decision whether these two little girls come to the United States or they go back to the war-ravaged home that their father left. It's up to us. It's not up to the President of the United States alone. Democracy allows us – allows for us to make a decision,” said Murphy in his speech. “This is about tens of thousands of refugees who are fleeing persecution and terror and torture…It's up to us.”
Yesterday, Murphy introduced legislation that would reverse President Trump’s dangerous executive order on refugees and immigrants. On Friday, Murphy penned an op-ed in the Huffington Post about the executive order entitled, “How Trump Just Made America Less Safe.”
Key excerpts from Murphy’s floor speech are below:
To watch the following segment of Murphy’s speech, click here:
“We have these incredibly compelling stories of real people who are caught today in the middle of this reckless, ill-thought-out ban. There are 67,000 refugees that are currently in the pipeline to come to this country right now. This isn't about a hundred or 200 or 300 or 400. This is about tens of thousands of refugees who are fleeing persecution and terror and torture. And of course this is about the 230 million Muslims who live in those seven countries who have been told that they are lesser, and frankly every other Muslim in the world who believes that the message is being sent to them as well.
“And so these stories that we tell you – to say that these are the tip of the iceberg isn't even accurate. This is a pinprick.
“Fadi Kassar and his family, here are his two girls, they left Syria in 2011 due to the epic levels of violence that he was sure would kill his two little girls if he didn't leave. His family went to the UAE, the United Arab Emirates, but the way in which it works is if you have a job you can stay but if you don't have a job, you leave. And when he lost his job, they were kicked out.
“And that began an epic journey for Fadi and his family. These girls actually were born in the UAE as I understand, so he was fleeing Syria to protect his family and his future children. And yet they were kicked out of the country they went to and Fadi then began a journey to try and find a home for he and his family.
“He tried to get to Europe via Tunisia but he was detained and sent back to Turkey. He eventually flew to Brazil. He made his way to the United States by crossing the border with Mexico. Upon entry, he was detained. He was transferred to Miami. He was released, eventually found his way to Connecticut, and he applied for asylum. It was granted in December of 2015.
“Fadi's relatives in Syria were tortured, had been detained by the regime. His neighborhood was dangerous and deadly. Fadi and his family were exactly the kind of people that this country historically has been able to rescue from war-torn countries, from terror, and from torture. His family had experienced torture. His children, were they to return to Syria, would face potential death. And he went through all of the processes that we asked him to. He didn't go into the shadows. He didn't hide. He applied for asylum status. It was granted in 2015. He followed forms that would allow for his wife and two daughters to follow and those visas were issued last Tuesday on January 24.
“Originally, they had a flight that was scheduled to bring his wife and these two little girls to the United States today, but last week when Fadi learned of the potential for this executive order, he paid $1,000 to move their flight up to Friday. And so his two little girls and his wife got on a flight from Jordan to Kiev, Ukraine, eventually to the United States. But once in Kiev, their passports and visas were taken from them. They were sent to CBP [Customs and Border Protection], their visas were rejected, and they were returned to Jordan.
“They're back at their old apartment, these two little girls are, but they got rid of all their furniture. They got rid of all their clothes. Their neighbors have temporarily given them mattresses to sleep on. They don't even know where their suitcases are. And their father who is ready to greet them at the airport here in the United States may never see them. They are scared to death.
“I have two little boys who are the exact same age. I have an 8-year-old. And I have a 5-year-old. And I think about what these two little girls went through, getting ready to finally go see their dad, who had gone through an epic struggle to try to find someplace in this world where his two little girls could be.
“He found it. He found it in America. He found it in my state of Connecticut. He found it just like hundreds of thousands of other people who fled war-ravaged Europe, who fled the bombing in Vietnam, who left Albania and Kosovo to come live a better life, just like they found. And he was ready to go to the airport to welcome his two little girls, and they were told that they're not leaving. You're not going to see your dad. You're going back to Jordan and potentially eventually back to Syria.
“Imagine what those two little girls went through. And imagine millions of other little boys and girls like them who had in their mind this place called America, a place that would welcome them, who would rescue them from the disaster that had become their lives, and imagine that dream that was literally hours away for these two little girls, extinguishing for millions others like them all around this planet.
“It's up to us whether that light which flickered off on Friday re-lights. It's up to us as to whether we rekindle the American dream, that idea of America from our founding. This is not irreversible. These two little girls, you could bring them here. We could choose to bring them here. It's up to us. There's legislation on the floor of the Senate right now as we speak that would rescind this order. It's our decision, right?
“There's 100 of us here. There's only 430-something down the hall. There's only 535 of us. It's our decision whether these two little girls come to the United States or they go back to the war-ravaged home that their father left. It's up to us. It's not up to the President of the United States alone. He doesn't get to make these decisions by himself. Democracy allows us – allows for us to make a decision. It's up to us.
“I believe that we can do it. I believe that we can bring these girls here. I believe that we can undo the damage that has been done to this country's security. I believe that we can get back on a path such that ISIS remains on its heels. I believe that we can recapture that idea of that farmer who came to this country from a far-off land who looked in amazement at the amalgam of cultures and peoples and religions that was America. I know this sounds like hyperbole. A lot of people out there say this is just temporary. It's only for a few months, it's only for a few countries, but people are listening in Washington.
“Which direction are we heading? Do we really care about the things that we have always cared about? Millions upon millions of people all across this country and all across this world are watching. What do we do? Is this a partisan issue? Or can we commit ourselves together to stand up for those basic ideas of America's founding? There are two little girls that are watching most closely, who are watching to see if we can rise above partisanship and deliver to them the promise that is being made real for millions and millions of Americans who call this place home.
“Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.”