TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) About 100 people gathered at Congregation Or Chadash in Tucson Monday night to learn about the refugee resettlement process.
The event was planned by a committee at the congregation as a way to educate people about refugees.
The forum was planned before the announcement of President Donald Trump's revised executive order that suspends refugee admissions to the U.S. for 120 days. Syrian refugees had previously been banned indefinitely.
Speakers included representatives from the International Rescue Committee, Refugee Focus and Catholic Community Services. Also there to share his story was 29-year-old Somali refugee Ibrahim Hussein. Hussein says when he was a child he was forced to leave his hometown of Kismayo.
"There was a civil war going on. There was a lot of violence going on, people killing each other," Hussein said. "We tried to flee, but that didn't work because my father was killed. And I was left there at the age of six."
Hussein spent years at a refugee camp with his mother in Kenya and while it was not a happy life he tried to stay positive. Hussein was able to attend school and was a teacher at the camp, but food was never guaranteed. You weren't allowed to leave the camp or you could be arrested, Hussein said, so if you had family living in another area you could not visit them.
People often fear things they don't know, Hussein says, and he wants to spread the message that refugees are not looking for food stamps or handouts. Refugees want the same things other people want, Hussein said. Like many Americans he wants to work hard, pay taxes and support his community.
"We have to actually understand that this is the country of opportunity," Hussein said. "Let's give these people an opportunity to live better."
Now a U.S. citizen, Hussein has been studying a social program at Arizona State University and will be graduating in May. He works with a local resettlement agency and wants to continue to help people. Hussein is married and has seven children.
Speakers at the forum gave information about what they call the extensive refugee vetting process, and that it often takes years for refugees to be admitted to the U.S.
Local agencies say in the last fiscal year 4,500 refugees resettled in Arizona including about 1,300 in Tucson.
Experts at the forum say if you want to get involved you can volunteer with a resettlement agency, or simply be a good neighbor by taking the time to say hello and talk to people.