By Carol Tannenhauser
If all goes as planned, a plane from Istanbul carrying a family of eight Syrian-Kurdish refugees will begin its descent into JFK International Airport at about 6 p.m., just as the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco begins hearing arguments about whether to uphold a lower court’s stay on President Trump’s travel ban.
Sponsored by a group of New York City religious organizations, including Rutgers Presbyterian Church and B’nai Jeshurun, on the Upper West Side, the Khojas – a family of eight – are booked and scheduled to land at 6:45 at JFK Airport. It is their second attempt to enter the country, after more than two years of vetting, church officials say. Their first try was derailed by the January 27 ban, which barred all Syrian refugees indefinitely, including Kurds, who have long been persecuted and are our allies in the fight against ISIS.
Update: They have arrived.
— Rutgers Presbyterian (@rutgerschurchny) February 8, 2017
“We had a date and flight numbers for them and, then, all that hope came to nothing,” recalled Rutgers Pastor Andrew Stehlik. Instead of a joyous welcome, the church held a candlelight vigil for the family on the night of January 30th. This came after weeks of preparing the Khojas’ new home in Union, New Jersey. Congregants furnished and filled it with household essentials, clothes, and food.
“Now, a window has opened,” Pastor Stehlik said, in a phone interview with WSR. “Thankfully, the judgement from Washington state came and soon afterwards, things began to move again; agencies began issuing new travel documents. We have strong hopes that they will come this time, but we’re not celebrating yet. And, of course, we have lawyers on standby.”
The Khojas are scheduled to enter at JFK Terminal 1. Pastor Stehlik invites anyone who would like to greet them to gather at the international arrivals gate around 6:45 pm, but warns that the family’s processing could take several hours. How it will end may depend upon the decision of the court.