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The Refugee Alliance welcomes refugees in a time of political uncertainty

Three students strive to serve refugee families through the Refugee Alliance

Academics United Rally

Members of the Academics United Rally listen to a speaker on Feb. 9, 2017 outside of Hayden Library on ASU's Tempe campus.

Since the 1970s, the Refugee Alliance has been aiding local refugees across the country. Now in 2017, the new ASU chapter, which began last semester, is serving refugee communities in Arizona despite the unpredictable political climate. 

The alliance works with Refugee Focus, an organization that provides programs and helps refugees resettle in the Phoenix and Tucson area.

Haya Sweidan, a junior psychology major, said that in light of the current travel ban, one of the main focuses of Refugee Alliance is developing friendships and making sure refugees feel welcome.

“They always come out so genuine and light-hearted,” Sweidan said. “You wouldn’t be able to tell how hard they’ve had it.”

Mulki Mehari, a global health junior, is also one of the co-presidents. In 2007, Mehari and her family were accepted as refugees to Phoenix.

She said this was one of the most challenging times in her life and that she and her family faced daily struggles. Now she is a leader of Refugee Alliance, and she is helping those who are in the same place she was years ago.

“The mission of Refugee Alliance is to serve refugee families by inspiring learning, rallying volunteers and providing opportunities for kids to be kids,” Mehari said.

In light of the current travel ban that affected many countries where refugees come from, Mehari said President Donald Trump needs to realize that refugees are people, and that because of how he speaks, they are coming to America feeling isolated. 

“We’re not strong despite diversity, but we’re strong because of diversity,” Mehari said.

Mehari said that many refugees are confused with current events. While revisions to Trump's proposed travel ban are expected this week, the fate of many refugees is up in the air. Even refugees who are already in America will not know if they can visit their families outside the country.

Zouheir Ridouani, a biochemistry junior, is also a co-president of the Refugee Alliance. He said there are some refugees whose hopes of coming to America were crushed with the travel ban. Even refugees who were in the final process of the application to come to America suddenly could no longer come here with a single executive order.

“A lot of people here are fighting for them and a lot of people care,” Ridouani said.

Ridouani said one program the Refugee Alliance is currently working on is tutoring refugee children. One focus of the tutoring will be English as a second language.

Ridouani moved to America from Morocco in 2013, and went to an international school in Boston because he was not yet fluent in English. He attended an ESL program, and he said it helped him a lot in his effort to learn English.

Ridouani said one of the challenges refugees face when coming to America is the language barrier. The Refugee Alliance will teach refugee children English as well as additional studies they may have trouble with.

“We are trying to bring the message to the students at ASU to donate their time and help other people who are in need of help,” Ridouani said. "They're not here to threaten anyone, they're here because they are afraid of being threatened by other people."

ASU Refugee Alliance club comes together in the middle of immigration ban from The State Press on Vimeo. Video by Marcella Baietto.

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