Meeting with a Syrian refugee family in Dearborn

Posted at 11:35 PM, Feb 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-17 14:29:59-05

As the immigration debate takes center stage in the race for the White House, we decided to take a closer look at who's being affected here at home.

A family of five welcomed 7 Action News Reporter Ann Marie LaFlamme into their home and introduced us to what it's like being a Syrian refugee in America.

Areej Nawaf fled on foot from Syria to Jordan with her small children while her husband Mamdouh was imprisoned.

All the family has of the life they left behind is a few precious photos.

They tortured me a lot in prison, I have back problems, they broke my leg a few times," Mamdouh said. 

He fled to Jordan when he was released, and that's where his family spent the last three years.

"Living conditions were horrible, no one was allowed to work," Areej said.

During their time in Jordan, they were vetted through the United Nations and Homeland Security in search of anywhere safe to call their own. Just a few short weeks ago, they arrived in Dearborn.

"America means better future for my kids, the schools are wonderful, it's a lovely city, it's a lovely country," Areej said.

They have three children together, with one more on the way. They lost two children during their pursuit to freedom.

They bombed our house and I was alone with her in the house – my other two daughters were visiting her grandparents," Areej said.

In the few weeks since their arrival, Mamdouh has found a job as the family settles into a simple home far beyond their expectations. They'll receive help from different agencies for three months, but then, they're ont heir own.

We are very peaceful people we have no political ties whatsoever, we are victims of terror, we came here to raise our family," Mamdouh said. "I want to thank the American Government, the American people for the good hospitality and assure them we are not a danger whatsoever."

Their 4-year-old daughter Bessan loves Oreos, iPhones and donated toys, the first she's ever owned.

"I'm very happy for my kids future, to be in this country, their education, their future, safety and hope. They're giving me hope," Mamdouh said.

Gov. Snyder did put a halt on immigrant families coming into Michigan after the December attacks in San Bernardino, Calf., however, he did not stop any families already approved to come into the country, which is why many families are still making that transition.