Belew Hailu came to the United States from Ethiopia in search of freedom and opportunities for her two children.
"The refugee program saved my life and gave me another chance," he recently told community members at the United Methodist Church at the Duke Memorial.
But Hailu has another child in Ethiopia.
For years, he waited for the green light to bring his son to the United States.
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Its story echoes that of many others who hope to establish themselves in the United States, especially in recent years. Under President Trump, the limit on annual refugee admissions dropped from 50,000 people in fiscal year 2017 to 45,000 in 2018, to 30,000 this year.
In front of the Duke Memorial last week, refugee leaders, churches and communities gathered to ask the Trump administration to let more refugees in.
"When America Promises Something"
As the refugee roof fell, many former refugees in the Triangle, such as Hailu, felt the impact.
"We have many members of our congregation who have not seen their children or family members for years," said Ahmadu Lee, Jamaat Ibad Ar-Rahman masjid administrator in Durham.
The family is the basis of their lives, whether in society or in American societies around the world, said Kokou Nayo, organizer of the humanitarian group Church World Service. Nayo, who led the event on Wednesday, added that without the family "you're empty."
The federal government said the historically low ceiling for refugees reflects the need to address hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers who have already arrived at the border.
"This year's refugee ceiling reflects a substantial increase in the number of asylum seekers in our country, leading to a huge backlog of pending asylum cases and increased public spending," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a news conference in last September.
Seven years ago, Safia Mohammad left Afghanistan. Now she is a student at Durham Technical Community College who would like to become a social worker.
"Here in the US, we have the freedom to live our lives without fear," she said. "No one wants to leave the country without a reason. People leave their countries because something is bad. "
Mohammad, like other speakers, has asked Congress to ensure that the 30,000 limit is met. By the middle of fiscal year 2019, Nayo said the country was on its way to bringing only 21,000 refugees.
"When the United States promises something, it always happens," he said. "I hope the promise of 30,000 refugees will be fulfilled by the end of this fiscal year."
Solidarity in the faith
The leaders of Methodist, Presbyterian, and Muslim faith spoke, in turn, before the church.
"We are mindful of Christian traditions, oh God, in the ways that when you come to your people, you yourself come as an immigrant," said Cullen McKenney, a Duke Memorial minister.
Mindy Douglas, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Durham, said hospitality is the cornerstone of all major religions. She recalled a "unique and xenophobic billboard" presented by the North Carolina Shepherd Network in 2017, which took advantage of the September 11 attacks for an anti-immigration message.
In response, the North Carolina Council of Churches, of which Douglas is president, placed a billboard on the same side of the road quoting a Bible verse: "Welcome to the stranger, for you were once a stranger."
"In our religion … Allah told us, I could have made you [under] one nation, but I choose to make you different so that you can learn from each other, "Lee said." If we do not get together, we can not learn from each other. "
Community organizer Allison Mahaley, who works with the Universalist Unitarian Service Committee, pointed out during Wednesday's demonstration on the faces of the 60 people behind her. She urged members of the community and the administration not to look at each other in fear, but with love.
"If we listen to the writings of the Hebrew scriptures, the writings of the New Testament, and the basic tenets of all our major religions, we know we are called to love our neighbor," Douglas said. "We are called to love our strangers who will one day become friends."
In an interview with The News and Observer, Nayo added that hitting the cap is not enough given the treatment of refugees under the current administration.
"From 2017 with Trump to today, we can see a gradual shrinking of the admission of refugees in the United States," he said. "If we do not do something now, more people will get hurt."
Nayo said those committed to the case should convene their representatives in congressmen, he said. Those who are not convinced should talk to a refugee.
"See if that person really is that bad person they're meant to be," he said. "After talking to them, you'll see that they have the same values as Americans. So there's no real difference except where they were born.