Refugee family from Iraq coming to Arizona as national debate continues

Posted at 11:41 PM, Feb 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-07 08:29:17-05

The same day a federal appeals panel will hear arguments for and against President Trump's executive order which would put a temporary ban on refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries, a refugee family from Iraq will be arriving in Arizona.

Iraq, along with Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, are the countries where immigration and refugee settlement would be halted for at least three-month period. A federal judge has put a nationwide hold on immigration authorities enforcing the order, a matter that will go before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday.

According to the Arizona Department of Economic Security, 6,518 refugees have settled in the state since January 2016.  In that same time period, more than 2,500 refugees have come from countries banned in the executive order--including 824 from Somalia and 893 from Syria.

Helping those who arrive in Arizona is an organization called Lifting Hands International. It was founded last May after images of refugees in Syria and Iraq circulated.

Lifting Hands accepts donated goods, everything from soap trays to couches, to help ease the transition for people arriving in a foreign country with nothing more than can fit in a suitcase.

"It's hard not to lose your composure," said Emily Davis, with Lifting Hands. "These are people you see on the news, and now they will sit on our couch."

So far, Lifting Hands says it has helped about 100 families with the essentials for their new start. Chairs, plates and other items are stored in a warehouse, just waiting for new arrivals.

"You can see how many items we have," Davis said. We are ready to help them and we want to help them."

The executive order, which supporters say is designed as a security measure to make sure potential threats are not allowed into the country, has gotten pushback from those who work directly with refugees.

"If I could dispel any myth: Our refugees go through the U.N. and it's a different process. They are coming here because it is not safe to return," Davis said.