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SMC alumna helps refugees settle in South Bend

| Wednesday, February 22, 2017

When Hazim Al-Adilee arrived in the U.S. in 2014, his wife Entidhar Abbood was nearly 7,000 miles away in Jordan, having been denied relocation privileges. Now, more than two years later, Abbood’s application to enter the U.S. has still not been approved, as Al-Adilee discussed at a lecture about migration on Tuesday at Saint Mary’s.

Al-Adilee said his family established a happy life in Iraq, where he and his wife both worked as teachers, but was forced to move to Jordan after the rise of insurgents in his homeland.

“They kill anybody in Iraq, especially if they know he is a teacher, a doctor,” Al-Adilee said. “We don’t know what happened. We are now refugees.”

Al-Adilee said President Donald Trump’s desire to stop the entry of nationals from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen into the U.S. may prevent him from seeing his wife ever again. The situation is further complicated because Abbood suffers from diabetes and heart disease, according to Al-Adilee.

“I have a green card now, but I cannot go back to help her,” he said. “If I go out of the U.S., I cannot enter again. That is a problem for me.”

Alumna Laurie Pinter, class of ’84, who helps settle refugees in South Bend, said she aims to connect refugees with resources in the community that can fulfill their legal and medical needs. She said she works with a task force that arranges household items, enrolls children in school and conducts a cultural orientation for the refugees to make their transition easier.

“We are supposed to have refugees settled and independent in 90 days,” Pinter said.

“In anticipation of Hazim’s wife coming, we are trying to prepare what cardiologists we are going to have working with her.”

Pinter said she strives to make refugees feel welcome in the U.S. by surrounding them with members of the local community.

“As a resettlement agency, you’re trying to find a sponsor group, which often is a church, because as case managers … you are so busy,” Pinter said. “You don’t have the time to sit and socialize.”

According to Pinter, many refugees are surprised that Americans spend so little quality time with their loved ones.

“It’s really important to connect families with a group that can spend that time being social,” she said. “What I’ve learned doing this work is that we really are not a very social culture because people are shocked how busy we are as Americans. Having that church group that can help them acclimate and learn things about our culture is really important.”

Pinter said the sheer number of steps involved in applying to enter the U.S. can be daunting, which likely discourages people with harmful motives from relocating to the country.

“I just don’t think this is a way any possible terrorist is going to choose to come to the United States because it’s tough to get through this process,” Pinter said.

According to Pinter, students should aim to dispel misconceptions about refugees while fostering dialogue with people who hold opposing viewpoints.

“Stay informed,” she said. “Be aware. Use your voice to speak up. You have to hear what the other side is saying. Once in a while, listen in on people who are anti-refugee or anti-immigrant to know what the other side is saying and to have those conversations.”

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About Martha Reilly

Martha is a senior majoring in English literature and political science. She currently serves as Saint Mary's editor but still values the Oxford comma in everyday use.

Contact Martha