LINCOLN SQUARE — The long journey to freedom for a family of Syrian refugees sponsored by a Lincoln Square group finally came to a happy ending Tuesday night.
The Haj Khalaf family — Baraa, her husband Abdulmajeed, and their 16-month-old daughter Sham — touched down at O'Hare airport in the early evening. They were reunited with Baraa's parents and siblings, who were resettled in Skokie in September.
“We are so happy and overwhelmed to be here. We have just received so much support, I have no words,” Baraa Haj Khalaf, 22, said through an interpreter, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
In recent weeks, refugees like the Haj Khalafs have been at the center of a national debate over the legality of executive orders signed by President Donald Trump, which banned travelers to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
The younger Haj Khalafs were stranded in Turkey, their visas canceled just days before they were set to join their family in Chicago. When a federal judge blocked Trump's ban, the three were cleared to travel.
"We can hardly believe this is finally happening," said Alisa Wartick, who led a group of nearly 40 Lincoln Square residents who sponsored the family.
The sponsors helped to furnish an apartment in Skokie, stocked the pantry and collected clothing and toys for the family. The will continue to assist the Haj Khalafs as they adjust to life in the U.S. Donations to support the family are being accepted online (click here).
Posting to Facebook, the sponsors expressed relief and gratitude: "Thank you to everyone for your support, prayers, positive thoughts and offers of help.... THIS is what makes America great."
On scene at ORD where a family of Syrian refugees who fled Aleppo in '13 was just reunited w their parents, siblings pic.twitter.com/l68QCcTSxW— Kim Bellware (@bellwak) February 8, 2017
Syrian refugee Baraa Haj Khalaf, left, receives a kiss from her mother Fattoum Haj Khalaf after she arrived at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. Baraa Haj Khalaf and her family were previously banned from entering the United States after President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning immigrants from entering the country.