Syrian refugee family in Austin talks about vetting process
AUSTIN - It took the Mohammed and Samah Aladawi and their five kids, ages 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16, two and a half years to go through the vetting process to enter the United States. "They asked us so many questions. It was minute details questions, so they did not leave [out] a thing," said Samah Aladawi through a translator.
The family fled their home in southern Syria in 2012. "The army surrounded our neighborhood and they would go into houses and they'll kill people," Samah Aladawi, who was a stay at home mom in Syria, said.
The family arrived in Austin on September 1. "A welcoming group greeted us at the airport and they were extremely nice," Samah Aladawi said. The greeters brought the Aladawis to their two bedroom apartment that they now call home. The family received a little under $1,000 per person, from which three months' rent and the cost of some furniture was deducted. Mohammed Aladawi is desperate to find work. "I need to learn some English, just go work, because I don't get enough money and I have a big family," he said through the interpreter.
That's where SARA, or Syrian American Refugee Aid, comes in. The organization was founded by Syrian American families who have been in Austin for decades, in order to help the newcomers get their bearings and find work.
Today, Governor Greg Abbott said Texas would withdraw from the Refugee Resettlement Program, unless the federal government meets the state's vetting requirements. It will not affect the refugees already here.
But SARA's managing director, Bassam Marawi, says Abbott's stance doesn't reflect all Texans. "Texans are great. They are gracious, they are generous and we are finding support everywhere we go," he said.
The Aladawis says they would not have moved to the US if they didn't have to. "We had farmland, we had houses and we were very very comfortable," Mohammed Aladawi said. But the family says Americans have nothing to fear from them. "We are running away from death, so are we going to come here to face death? No," said 14-year-old Omar.