Syrian family arrives in Indianapolis with 'so much hope in their eyes'

By Natalie Hoefer

(CNS) — The two small children and their parents were exhausted as their plane
landed in Indianapolis at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7.

were not the average tired travelers coming home from a tourist trip. This was
a family arriving to their new home, ready to start a new life in a new

was a family of refugees, leaving behind all they owned in war-ravaged Syria,
ready to finally settle in the United States after a three-year wait to be

Bickel, senior immigration consultant for the Indianapolis Archdiocese’s Refugee and
Immigrant Services, assisted the family at the airport.

were so tired, and the children were sleeping in their arms,” she told The
Criterion, the archdiocesan newspaper. “But there was so much
hope in their eyes.”

Smith, director of the archdiocesan refugee services agency, said it was a “happy
reunion” with the mother’s sister and the sister’s family, who live in

family’s journey has been a long one. Fleeing their home in Syria three years
ago due to violence, they have been living in transitional housing in Amman,

two years of extensive security checks and personal interviews by the U.S.
government, the family was approved to come to America.

of the family’s relatives in Indianapolis, the archdiocese was asked to help
resettle the Syrian family through its regular participation in a program that
is a public-private partnership between the federal government and the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops and its Migration and Refugee Services.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Nov. 16 announced that he would suspend the
resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state.

Dec. 2, Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin met with the governor to discuss
the family’s plight, to reassure him that they had gone through an extensive
background check, and to explain the archdiocese’s refugee resettlement

news release was distributed to the media by the archdiocese Dec. 8 announcing
that the family had safely arrived the night before.

thank Governor Pence for meeting with me last Wednesday, when I was able to
explain in some detail the plight of this family as well as the role of the
Archdiocese’s Refugee and Immigrant Services program in welcoming them to
Indianapolis, where the family already has some relatives,” the archbishop
stated in the press release.

listened to the governor’s concerns regarding security and prayerfully
considered his request that we defer from welcoming them until Congress had
approved new legislation regarding immigrants and refugees,” he added.

informed the governor prior to the family’s arrival that I had asked the staff
of Catholic Charities to receive this husband, wife and their two small
children as planned,” Archbishop Tobin said.

after the archdiocesan news release was distributed, the governor’s office
issued a statement that, while the governor “holds Catholic Charities in
the highest regard,” he “respectfully disagrees with their decision
to place a Syrian refugee family in Indiana at this time.”

Dec. 8, Pence said at a news conference he would not block the refugee family
from receiving state aid such as food stamps and health care, though he told
the media he continues to oppose the family’s relocation to Indiana.

Bethuram, director of Catholic Charities Indianapolis, said his office has
received numerous calls of support for the resettlement of the family — from
offers of living space to offers of financial assistance, and even “calls
just saying ‘we support what you’re doing.’

given us a good opportunity to explain to people the process of refugee
resettlement, this avenue of the church to welcome (refugees),” he said. “We’ve
done it for 40 years, and will continue to do it.”

there are no other Syrian families slated for resettlement in the archdiocese,
Bethuram pointed out that Syrians “are not the only population we’re
resettling right now. We have lots of others from Burma, Bhutanese (from Nepal),
Africa — all of them have gone through the same process this Syrian family has
gone through.”

this process, the Syrian family will be placed in an apartment furnished with
donated items. The archdiocese’s Refugee and Immigrant Services will assist the
family in registering for medical, welfare and Social Security aid, followed by
help in transitioning to their new life in America. They will receive community
and cultural orientation, English classes, tutoring, job readiness courses,
professional certifications and employment placement.

family arrived in the archdiocese on the eve of the beginning of the Jubilee
Year of Mercy, and also in the midst of Advent, as Archbishop Tobin noted.

welcome this family during Advent, a time when the Christian community asks God
to renew our hope and recognize God’s saving power among us,” he said. “As
we wait with hope during this season of Advent, I ask all people of good will
to pray for peace in our homes, local communities and throughout the world.”

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is a reporter at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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