Refugee family sponsored by Jesuit parish has delayed arrival in DC

by Thomas Reese

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A refugee family, sponsored by a Jesuit parish, was finally able to reach the United States after being stopped by President Donald Trump's executive order banning refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations. 

The Cheikhos, a Kurdish Muslim family of eight from Syria, had been in Iraq as refugees for more than two years. They are being sponsored by Holy Trinity Parish in Washington, D.C. 

The family "had been rigorously vetted and had done all the things required of them for visas and entry into the U.S.," explained Kate Tromble, pastoral associate for social justice at Holy Trinity. The family was originally scheduled to arrive on Feb. 6. Then came the president's executive order Jan. 27. "After all of our efforts and all of the Cheikhos' hopes, we had lost our family," she told the parish.

The executive order was suspended by a U.S. court, which allowed the family to come.

The Cheikhos family spent 30 hours traveling before arriving the evening of Feb. 16 at Dulles Airport, where they were met by members of Holy Trinity Parish. The parishioners took the Cheikhos to an Air BnB, which will be their home for the next two weeks. 

"It was a beautiful sight to watch the kids explore the temporary home where they will be staying," wrote Chris Crawford in an email, "and to watch them discover all the toys and other goodies that awaited them." 

Mr. Cheikho thanked the parishioners for helping his family. "He said that he is so grateful for all that our team has done," explained Crawford. "He was very emotional." 

The following day, the family had their first visit with their case worker and signed a lease on their permanent home for the next year. 

Holy Trinity worked with Lutheran Social Services in Falls Church, Virginia, which has experience resetelling refugees in Northern Virginia. 

"It takes a lot of people to accompany one family," explained Kate Tromble, pastoral associate for social justice, in the Holy Trinity parish bulletin. "We need teams for food, housing and furnishing, finance, employment, transportation, welcome, clothing, education and ESL, medical and legal services, and interpreters who speak Arabic."

But it was not difficult getting volunteers. "We just needed to ask and people jumped at the chance to assist a family," writes Tromble. "Our team grew large rather quickly."

The pastor, Jesuit Fr. Kevin Gillespie, reports that 70 parishioners have contributed financially and some 200 parishioners as well as some students from the parish school have been involved. 

[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. His email address is]

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