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Reunited Syrian Refuge Family Welcomed With Open Arms In Milford

U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy greet Hanan and Lian, ages 5 and 8, at the Olive Tree in Milford on Friday. The girls and their mother were initially denied entry to the U.S. due to President Donald Trump's travel ban. Photo Credit: Sandra Diamond Fox
Kassar and his family, who are Syrian refugees, at the Olive Tree in Milford on Friday evening. The restaurant’s owner, Sammer Karout, is the brother-in-law of Kassar. Photo Credit: Sandra Diamond Fox
A packed crowd fills the Olive Tree in Milford awaiting the arrival of the Syrian refugee mother and her two daughters. Photo Credit: Sandra Diamond Fox
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Olive Tree owner Sammer Karout, and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy Photo Credit: Sandra Diamond Fox

MILFORD, Conn. — As a reunited Syrian refugee family celebrated Friday evening, U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal vowed to continue fighting the travel ban that had threatened to keep the family apart. 

"We are not going to rest. We are going to fight this any way we can," Murphy told the packed room at the Olive Tree in Milford as friends and supporters gathered to greet Fadi Kassar of Milford, his wife, Razan Alghandour, and their daughters, Hanan and Lian, ages 5 and 8. 

The family had been separated for over two years — plus a few more unexpected days — due to President Donald Trump's executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations.

When the little girls and their mother arrived at the Olive Tree, Murphy bent down to their height and warmly welcomed them. “I am so glad that you’re here. You will have so much fun here,” said Murphy, who spoke of their plight earlier this week on the Senate floor. 

The celebration capped a tumultuous week for the family, who had fled the civil war in Syria in 2011.  

Related story: A Syrian refugee living in Connecticut greets his wife and daughters with hugs and tears after they safely arrive in the U.S. 

Despite securing approval to travel to the U.S., Alghandour and the two girls were stopped from boarding their flight last week in Ukraine after the travel ban went into effect. 

But they were able to fly to the U.S. on Thursday, thanks to the work of Murphy's office, immigration lawyers, the U.S. State Department, and U.S. Customs and Borders and others. They were reunited with Kassar at JFK Airport.

Before the girls and their mother arrived at the Olive Tree on Friday, Blumenthal also addressed the crowd, saying that as much as this was a day of great celebration, there was also a dark side.

“There are tens of thousands of other children who are still in cities and towns enduring violence and persecution. It’s unimaginable," he said.

Blumenthal attacked Trump’s immigration ban, saying, “It is abhorrent to American values. It is unconstitutional and unwise."

Related story: Murphy tells heartbreaking story of how the family was turned back.

He said the United States has the opportunity to do more to help refugees. “Tomorrow is not soon enough to take action," Blumenthal said.

Murphy told the crowd that he is personally touched by the family's troubles because his own sons are the exact same ages as Kassar’s daughters.

“I know that if my sons’ lives were in danger, I would do whatever it takes to keep them safe,” Murphy said. He said the family's story is familiar because “it's how all of us got here.

“Whether it was our parents, our grandparents or our great-grandparents, they risked their lives to make dangerous transit to come to this country," Murphy said. 

Related story: Residents of Fairfield County join airport protests over the travel ban from seven Muslim-majority nations.

He promised he would do whatever it takes to make sure refugees find safety in the United States.

”We are going to enlist Republicans, we are going to enlist Americans of every political stripe.

"We're not going to rest until this scene is played out 100,000 times all over the country -- that’s how many people are waiting in the pipeline to become refugees finding safety in the United States."

There is no anxiety or fear or frustration "that cannot be cured by political action -- by rising up and saying enough is enough," Murphy said.

Late Friday, a U.S. judge temporarily blocked Trump's executive order and Murphy praised the decision.

“A few hours ago, I welcomed the reunited Kassar family from Syria to Connecticut. Seeing those two young girls clutching their American Girl dolls filled my heart and broke it," Murphy said. "There are too many other families out there who, because of President Trump’s dangerous executive order, don’t know when they will see their loved ones again. Tonight’s ruling is welcome news. 

"This executive order is illegal and unconstitutional. President Trump needs to follow the law and rescind this executive order immediately.”

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