Local groups try to ease fears among immigrants, refugees in political climate

Kadir Abdullahi (left) sits with Rukia Abdi (right) - KATU photo

President Donald Trump's new executive order on immigration has many local refugees and immigrants -- even those here legally -- worried about their future. Some local groups are trying to ease those fears.

Rukia Abdi, a refugee from Somalia, is finally safe in Portland.

"She's not terrified somebody's going to break into her house. So she has no worries, right now," says Kadir Abdullahi who translated her story to KATU News.

Six months ago she made it to the United States, fleeing from unimaginable terror.

Ten years ago, she says, a group of men forced their way into her home in Somalia. A bullet struck Rukia in the eye, and exited the back of her head. She tried to shield her two-year-old daughter from harm.

"She started crying and crying. One of them dropped the gun and picked up the baby and shot her, shot the little baby," Abdullahi relays to us. Rukia sits next to him in tears.

The family spent 9 years in a refugee camp in Kenya while the U.S. vetted them. Now in Portland, the family relies on help from the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, or IRCO.

"Our people really want to come here, they want to be successful, they don't want just to rely on welfare, they want to be able to get an education, be successful," says Djimet Dogo, with IRCO.

IRCO has 200 programs to help them do just that, but Dogo says it's getting harder to help as immigrants and refugees grow more afraid.

"Even though they're here legally, they have a green card, they're still scared," Dogo explains.

"Will I be deported? And this is coming even from people who are U.S. citizens here. There's definitely fears about travel," says Dr. Daniel Towns. He is the medical director at OHSU'S "Intercultural Psychiatric Program." His staff helps council more than 11,000 refugees and immigrants.

He says much of the fear and anxiety they see now is related to President Trump's executive order. They are doing their best to ease fears.

"Helping people feel welcome and encourage them to pursue some of the things that they want to pursue, like getting a job, going to school, learning English," Dr. Towns says.

"They are resilient, they are trying to their best to make sure they fit in," Dogo says.

Rukia Abdi has her new beginning, but wonders if her family back in Africa - who's still being vetted - will get the same chance.

"She wants her kids to learn English and develop, that the opportunity they never had back home," Abdullahi translates. "She wants for her kids a better life."

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