After Long Wait, Syrian Refugee In Toledo Finally Gets Green Card

Mar 16, 2017
Originally published on March 16, 2017 9:35 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And now our co-host Ari Shapiro has joined us in the studio. And, Ari, I hear you've got an update for us on a story that you've actually been following for some time now.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Yeah, you know, for the last couple years, I've been visiting Toledo, Ohio, to talk to Syrian refugees there. And one of the guys who we've met over the years is named Mohammed al-Refaai. He's in his 20s. He's a butcher. And he lives in a house with three roommates who are also these young guys in their 20s, all recent college graduates. They call him Mo.

The problem is Mohammed's parents and his siblings are still stuck in Jordan. And so the last time I visited in December, he was really worried that if he didn't get a green card which would allow him to travel internationally, he might never see his family again.

MOHAMMED AL-REFAAI: I feel bad for they not with me, but I can't do anything for help them.

SHAPIRO: Well, the other day, we got a text from the roommates, and so last night I called them.

Hello, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Hey.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: What's up, Ari?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Hey.

SHAPIRO: All four of the guys were on the line. And who wants to share the good news?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Mo, go. Say it. What'd you get?

AL-REFAAI: I have the green card.

SHAPIRO: Literally every day for months, he was checking the mailbox, hoping, and every day he was disappointed.

AL-REFAAI: Every day when I come home and when I finish work and come home, I open the box, and I didn't see it. But two days ago, they come.

SHAPIRO: And then one of the roommates, Johnny Zellers, told me it actually took them a minute to figure out what it was when the thing arrived.

JOHNNY ZELLERS: He gave me this piece - like, this piece of mail. I started reading it. It was like, oh, you are now, like, a residence of the United States. And I was like, wait; this is, like, really important. And I was like, oh, hey, this is the green card. You've got a green card.

SHAPIRO: I understand you guys threw a party.

DOUG WALTON: Yeah, a pretty low-key party, just us. We got a cake that says happy green card.

SHAPIRO: That's Doug Walton. He said of course the cake was green.

WALTON: I told him this is a great day for America because we get to keep you.

SHAPIRO: OK, so this story actually has a twist.

CORNISH: A good twist or a bad twist?

SHAPIRO: Well, he called his family to tell them. They cried. They shouted. And his mom said basically, OK, hop on a plane.

AL-REFAAI: My mom - she said, you can come right now. Visit us. And I said, no (laughter), I can't.

SHAPIRO: He can legally leave the country and come back in, but because of all the news about President Trump's travel ban, he's afraid to do it. And so he said he's probably going to wait three years until he gets a passport and might not see his family until then. But he said he is so happy that he can now be in the United States permanently, and he told me he wants to thank everybody in the U.S. who has made him feel so welcome here.

AL-REFAAI: I'm so happy a lot, and I will say thank you for everybody who helped me.

CORNISH: Well, Ari, thanks so much for sharing your story with us.

SHAPIRO: Of course, happy to.

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