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Syrian Refugee Family Reunited At Chicago's O'Hare Airport


At the same time those judges were hearing arguments over President Trump's immigration order, a plane originating from Turkey landed at Chicago's O'Hare airport. The plane was carrying two Syrian refugee families. Susie An from member station WBEZ was there for their arrival.

SUSIE AN, BYLINE: Sister and brother Aya and Mohammad Haj Khalaf had just gotten off work from their new food-packing jobs. They were eager to finally reunite with their older sister's family, especially their baby niece.

AYA HAJ KHALAF: I want my niece because I very miss her.

MOHAMMAD HAJ KHALAF: Hug my niece and my sister is dream.

AN: The welcome party at O'Hare's international terminal was lively with colorful signs and gifts, including a stuffed animal for the baby. But the backdrop was tense as TVs broadcast the hearing over the travel ban. Five members of the Haj Khalaf family - mother, father, two brothers and a sister - were resettled in Chicago in September, before the presidential election. Since then, they've been busy. Actress Julia Sweeney is part of the family's mentoring team.

JULIA SWEENEY: We, like, just met with the family, took them grocery shopping, helped them with doctor appointments - taking them out trying to show them how to do the subway system, bus system.

AN: Baraa, the oldest sister, was supposed to arrive with her husband and daughter last week but were caught in the crosshairs of the executive order indefinitely banning Syrian refugees. After a federal judge temporarily halted that order, the family was able to fly to Chicago. After what seemed to be a speedy process through customs, the final members of the Haj Khalaf family were welcomed with cheers and tearful embraces.


AN: The eight family members were finally reunited. Older sister Baraa Haj Khalaf spoke about her arrival through translator Suzanne Sahloul.

BARAA HAJ KHALAF: (Foreign language spoken).

SUZANNE SAHLOUL: And this is what she expected from the American people, that they are so warm and welcoming.

AN: Baraa says she's looking forward to rebuilding their lives in what she calls the country of dreams.

For NPR News, I'm Susie An in Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As a reporter for WBEZ's news desk, Susie produces content for daily newscasts and WBEZ's website. She also anchors, occasionally, delivering news on WBEZ. She directed WBEZ's Schools on the Line monthly call-in show. Her work has also been heard on NPR, CBC and BBC. Susie joined WBEZ as a news desk intern in September 2007. Prior to joining WBEZ, Susie worked at the Peoria Journal Star newspaper and worked as an acquisitions editor for Publications International,Ltd.