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Austinites Gather to Support Central Texas Refugees

Stephanie Tacy for KUT
Abdul Ghani holds his daughter, Laila, during a vigil held for refugees in Central Texas at the First English Lutheran Church.

Faith groups and supporters of the refugee community gathered at a church near UT-Austin’s campus last night in solidarity with refugees already resettled in Texas following President Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees from predominately Muslim countries.

Simone Talma Flowers of Interfaith Action of Central Texas was among many leaders of local groups who provide services to refugees in the state who spoke at the vigil at the First English Lutheran Church. She and others asked attendees to continue to welcome these families in the community.

“All of us have stories of immigration,” she said. “Many of us are people are who came here for a better life – a place of refuge.”

But the vigil was also an opportunity for families already resettled here to tell their story and even thank folks in Austin for supporting them, including Laila Ghani, whose family resettled here after fleeing Syria.

She told the crowd that her family moved to Malaysia for four years after the war started, and that she and her younger sister were out of school until moving to the states. 

“…[I] thank the USA for everything you’ve done and expecting our family,” she said. “I thank them.”

Credit Stephanie Tacy for KUT

According to Refugee Services of Texas, 112 refugees were approved for resettlement within the next month. But, since the executive order, the resettlement of 57 refugees has been canceled.

In a statement, group officials say those plans were canceled following up to two years of vetting and background check protocols. Now their lives are in limbo.

Ashley Lopez covers politics and health care. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.
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