Syrian in Michigan: Refugee suspension ‘stupid’

Kivah Mohammed. (Nov. 15, 2015)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Fallout from the deadly Paris attacks continue here in the U.S. and even closer to home in West Michigan.

Refugees here say they are outraged by Gov. Rick Snyder’s decision to suspend efforts to bring Syrian refugees to Michigan because of the attacks. One refugee told 24 Hour News 8 that closing the doors to others will only help ISIS.

Kivah Mohammed says closing the borders will force the refugees back to Syria where they have two choices: fight for the Islamic State or against it — and fighting against it doesn’t usually end well.

“ISIS would give you money if you fight with them,” Mohammed said. “That’s one of the reasons. You go back and you want to protect your family so you go be one of them. But if I am here in the United States, I just go work with a company and make a better life for my family.”

That’s what Mohammed is doing. He’s 20 years old and fled Syria five years ago. A few months ago, he was allowed to come to Grand Rapids, where he now works.

“I really felt welcome,” he said about moving here. “Everyone is trying to help you. Everyone likes you. Everyone feels terrible about what you’ve been through.”

Mohammed was reminded of the hell back home in Syria on Friday while watching the soccer match between France and Germany. He heard what was later identified as a bomb going off outside the Paris stadium where the game was being played. ISIS has claimed responsibility for bombings and shootings in the City of Lights that killed at least 129 people.

“I was like, God, that is terrible,” he said after learning about the extent of the attacks.

Snyder reacted Sunday by closing Michigan’s borders to Syrian refugees until federal officials fully review security clearances and procedures. He said in a statement that Michigan is “proud of our rich history of immigration” but that the state’s “priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”

“To be honest with you, I feel it’s kind of stupid,” Mohammed said. “When I came here, I didn’t just buy a ticket and come. I’ve been through a program for like two and a half years.”

Mohammed and others went through years of intense screening and questioning before they were allowed in the states.

“It’s important to remember that these attacks are efforts of extremists and do not reflect the peaceful ways of people of middle eastern descent,” Snyder added in his statement.

But Mohammed feels closing the borders is lumping everyone together.

“They (the refugees) are just innocent people trying to run away,” he said.

However, one organization that helps refugees in West Michigan is not taking outright opposing Snyder’s decision.

“We understand Governor Snyder’s decision to suspend acceptance of Syrian refugees into Michigan. We anticipate this is a temporary response to a devastating situation,” Bethany Christian Services said in a statement released Monday.

It’s unclear how long the suspension will last.

–The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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