Educating the public, talking about the refugee vetting process


WALLINGFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — About 900 refugees came to Connecticut last year alone, and many more have already arrived this year. However, experts say the road to coming to America legally is much more difficult than many people think. Some are now trying to educate the public.

Haitham Dalati and his wife came to the United States legally from Lebanon in February. Before they could come here they had to have medical testing done, a background check, and they had to attend classes to learn about life in the U.S. Then they, like others coming to America, had to pay for their transportation here and adjust to a completely new life.

The vetting process was long and filled with uncertainty.

“Many questions, many personal questions about the family, everything in our life,” said Dalati.

There were long interviews, sometimes months apart. The process took about eight months. When Dalati was finally told he would be able to come to the United States, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that made that impossible. However, Datali did make the trip after the travel ban was lifted.

“I was not feeling stable, always nervous, expecting them to call me today tomorrow, tomorrow after that I became hopeless,” Dalati said.

Chris George is the Executive Director of IRIS, a nonprofit that helps immigrants and refugees, including Dalati. George says many people have no idea what people like Dalati go through to come to the United States.

“Some people were saying they weren’t being screened at all. Some were saying, Oh they’re just coming to this country, we don’t know anything about them,” George said.

That’s why George speaks to the public about the vetting process. He spoke in Wallingford on Wednesday evening, putting the public in immigrants’ and refugees’ shoes through role playing to give them a better understanding.

Though Dalati is now living in New Haven, he is still working towards the American Dream.

“I hope time will come I’ll find a job, to find income,” Dalati said. “It’s not easy to find a job.”

Dalati’s daughter and her family are still in Lebanon. They are still waiting to find out if they will be able to come here.

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