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Hundreds protest in Austin for Syrian refugees

Protesters filled a downtown Austin park Sunday to voice against Texas' stance of not wanting any more Syrian refugees.

Hundreds of people protested in downtown Austin Sunday over Texas' stance to not allow more Syrian refugees in the state.

The group gathered at Woolridge Park Sunday afternoon, six days after governor Greg Abbott announced Texas does not want to bring in any more Syrian refugees.

Chanting things like "Let them in, Abbott let them in" and "Governor Abbott shame on you" the protesters singled out the governor. Abbott is one of 27 governors throughout the country to refuse any more Syrian refugees.

Those at the protest also talked about the resettlement process, what it's like to go from Syria to the U.S. and what can be done locally to help refugees.

"It's so sad to be a young person and to see the future of my country being in the hands of ignorant fear mongers," protester Elaina Jimenez said. "For us to punish all of them is ridiculous."

"I believe now is the time not for cowardice but for compassion," protester Lois Smith said. "Cooler heads are not prevailing in the state right now."

Many state leaders, though, say the screening process for Syrian refugees isn't good enough. Texas representatives in Congress, like Michael McCaul who represents Austin's district, voted for a bill that would suspend the Syrian refugee resettlement program.

"Let's put a break on this until we have assurances and have confidence we can properly vet and do background checks."

That bill passed with ease in the house and it's now up to the Senate to vote on it.

As protesters marched in downtown Austin Sunday, there was also a benefit for Syrian refugees in Austin. Displaying tables of handmade goods to buy, the benefit helps Syrian refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and in the Austin area.

"With all the suffering they have been through, this is the least that we can do for them to help," benefit organizer and executive director of Watan USA Mouna Hashem said.

Hashem helped bring in handmade goods from refugees in Turkey to be sold. She said the money goes back to those women, many of whom are the sold providers for the family after their spouses were either killed or hurt in the Syria conflict.

"So now they have a job, they make money with dignity and they stand up on their feet and help their family," Hashem.

"That's the only income," volunteer Mai Barazi said.

Barazi brought in goods from refugees from Lebanon. She said they helped set up factories for women to work in after many of them were destroyed in the war. She also went to the refugee camps herself recently and said the situation is getting worse.

"Theythink they lost hope, the country is gone," Barazi.

Another Syrian woman Zein Al-Jundi, who owns the Austin Arabic Bazaar, also donated goods for these women. For more than a decade she's been getting goods straight from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries and selling them in Austin.

"Sadly after the Syrian conflict I started going to Turkey and getting products from there," Al-Jundi said.

Al-Jundi wanted to help out because she knows how much these people need help.

"The devastation is really indescribable," Al-Jundi said.

Syrian refugees who have settled in Austin also came to the benefit. Hashem said they wanted to help welcome them into the community. Many have come to Austin in the past several weeks.

Hashem said blocking refugees completely goes against the values she was raised on in the United States. She said most of these people don't want to leave the area and would rather be home in Syria. However, war has pushed them out.

"If we could fix the problem in Syria, trust me everybody would be back," Hashem said.

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