ROCKFORD — In the midst of global terror and chaos, the Al Hammawis are learning how to be Americans.
The Syrian refugee family of eight arrived in Rockford by way of Jordan about two months ago with help from Catholic Charities, the Rockford area’s primary refugee resettlement organization. Hamed, Amal and their six children, who range in age from 1 to 16, are adjusting to life in the United States. They’re going to school, learning English, making new friends and trying to make their way around a strange city.
In the wake of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks on Paris, Gov. Bruce Rauner has called for Illinois to stop accepting Syrian refugees, citing security. The state has accepted 169 Syrian refugees since 2010, according to the Department of Human Services. Five families, including the Al Hammawis — 35 people in all — have found new homes this year in Rockford, according to Catholic Charities.
As the war rages between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and various rebel groups, including Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, more families will likely look to the United States as a place of refuge. In September, President Barack Obama said the United States would welcome 10,000 more Syrian refugees. About 1,600 were admitted in fiscal 2015, according to the U.S. State Department’s Refugee Processing Center. More than 4 million Syrians have fled the conflict in their home country, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.