Refugee families bound for the United States are now in a holding pattern after President Trump's executive order on immigration. That includes a Syrian family headed to the Northeast with help from volunteers in New London.
"They said sorry, America is closed," said Holly Popa, of New London, describing what a family of Syrian refugees was told as they tried to board a plane Saturday from Turkey to the Northeast.
Popa was working to get them to Ledyard to live with their relatives, also refugees. She chose not to identify the family to not interfere with their refugee status.
That family is in search of a better life from a war-torn Syria. But Popa said in Turkey it wasn't much better. Their children couldn't get an education.
She said it took three to four years of grueling interviews to get them a legal OK to come to U.S. for a better life. They gave up their home, jobs, obtained the proper legal documents, packed up all of their belongings and had tickets to fly.
"I was in shock with what happened to them," Popa said. "It felt like my heart was ripped out. It just doesn't feel like this is the America I knew and grew up in, and the reasons my grandparents came here."
Popa's grandparents came from Lebanon decades ago to find the American dream.
Ron Ward is a co-leader of Start Fresh, a group that helps bring refugees to New London. He said there's a two family-home ready to accept refugee families that's sitting vacant.
"We had put the word out to the refugee network that we were ready to accept new families, and arrangements just could not happen in the timing," Ward said.
Popa said the refugees already in New London County are afraid of their standing, despite getting to the U.S. legally. They're afraid they might be sent back.
"Because of their status," Popa said. "Their refugee status. With a refugee status, they're in the works of getting their green cards. All of our refugees. And this could put a damper on it."
Saturday at 7 p.m., Fresh Start, along with Connecticut College, is showing a documentary of a refugee camp in Jordan, Ward said. Current events are already generating a larger audience, he added. The showing will be at Connecticut College.