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Rochester refugees weigh in on Trump's immigration ban

Sadiya Omar is the co-founder of Refugees Helping Refugees in Rochester, NY.
Sadiya Omar is the co-founder of Refugees Helping Refugees in Rochester, NY.

Across the country, some immigrants already in the United States say they are full of fear and uncertainty. The same is true for the local refugee community, especially after President Donald Trump abruptly enforced an immigration ban on seven Muslim countries.

“There’s nothing we can do. We can just hold and wait and see what happens,” said Sadiya Omar, a former refugee from Somalia.

Omar arrived in Rochester as a refugee 15 years ago, with her siblings, nieces, and two sons. Her daughter arrived at a later date. The family was fleeing the civil war in their native country to a local refugee camp.

“We don’t tell all our stories, but every refugee has a unique story of what they went through,” Omar said, “Nobody wants to leave their home country. Nobody wants to leave a place where you speak the same language.”

Now the co-founder of the nonprofit Refugees Helping Refugees, which gives support to immigrants making the transition to life in America, Omar says she is heartbroken for refugees worldwide.

“It’s just…we lost everything and we’re forced to be here and [Trump] should understand that, as a human being,” Omar said.

Refugees Helping Refugees provides a number of programs to help refugees resettle in their new community. Volunteers at the center teach English classes, assist with government forms, and help the newer refugees gain direct access to health care.

Omar said the ban heightens her concern for a group of refugee men at the center whom have recently filed petitions for their wives and children in Syria to come to the United States.

“They’re not going to see their children. As a parent you always want to be with your children,” she said.

Omar and her family members are now U.S. citizens, however they leave behind relatives in Somalia and Kenya who may never be able to leave. The mother of four said she and her colleagues will continue to lift their voices in prayer and remain hopeful for a brighter future for refugees. 

Sasha-Ann Simons joined the team at WXXI News in 2015 as a Multimedia Reporter/Producer. She tells stories about the innovation economy and technology in upstate New York and also does general assignment reporting. Sasha-Ann is the host of Arts InFocus, WXXI-TV's weekly arts and culture program. She is also a fill-in host and regular contributor to Need To Know.