FREMONT, Calif. (KTVU) - A Bay Area man is worried that two of his sisters and their families, all Syrian refugees, might be banned from entering the United States if President Donald Trump signs the draft of an executive order that would ban Syrian refugees and put more restrictions on who can enter the U.S.
Ahed Maamo lives in Fremont and immigrated from Syria with his parents and eight siblings more than a decade ago. All of them became American citizens. His youngest sisters, Rania and Dania, however are trapped overseas. Each has three children and they were living with their husbands in Hom, Syria when their homes were destroyed in 2011 as fighting, bombings and tank attacks descended on their neighborhood. So far, the sisters have been unable to rejoin Maamo and their family members in California.
'It's sad. I really miss them," Maamo said, "I haven't seen them since 2009."
Maamo has been thinking of them every day, ever since. He says the sisters and their families fled to Turkey and Egypt, then ended up in Lebanon a few months ago. Two of their children went to Germany, where one young man is in a refugee camp, the other attending school. Maamo says the families were approved as United Nations refugees three years ago but have not been able to enter the us to join their family.
The draft executive order obtained by the Associated Press Wednesday indicates that President Trump would put a stop to accepting Syrian refugees and put a hold on the overall U.S. refugee program for 120 days.
It would also suspend issuing any visas for people from seven mostly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for at least 30 days,
In 2016, the United States admitted 84,995 refugees, including more than 12,000 Syrians.
For the 2017 budget year, President Barack Obama had set an overall limit of 110,000 refugees.
President Trump's executive order draft would cut that by more than half, to 50,000 refugees. It would also direct the Pentagon and State Department to develop a plan for safe zones in Syria to accommodate people displaced by the war.
President Trump has said he fears terrorists could become a threat by entering the U.S. as refugees.
"It is already difficult to come into the United States," said Zahra Billoo, a spokeswoman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, "The U.S. has very strict immigration policies."
Billoo,says refugees already must go through a thorough vetting process.
During the Obama administration, vetting for Syrians routinely took years to complete and included in-person interviews overseas, where they provided biographical details about themselves, including their families, friendships, social or political activities, employment, phone numbers, email accounts and more. They also provided biometric information about themselves, including fingerprints and Syrians are subject to additional, classified controls that administration officials at the time declined to describe.
Billoo says her group CAIR is prepared to fight the executive order if the President does sign it.
"We are also looking at legal strategies to push back at any executives order," Billoo said, "The supreme law of the land is the constitution."
Maamo says he has reached out to members of Congress, but fears his sisters might never make it to California. .
"Right now, after the news of the Trump administration it's getting scarier and scarier," Maamo said.