'Rally For Refugees' Outside Cincinnati City Hall

Jan 30, 2017

Sami Bdeir is worried about a new ban on travelers from seven Muslim majority countries. He's a Syrian refugee who came to Cincinnati about two years ago. 

"I came here because of what's happened in Syria, and second because the US has always been a beacon of democracy. The land of the free, the home of the brave," he says.

But Bdeir is worried about President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration. "It puts a direct threat to my career here, to all of what I've sacrificed to come here."  Bdeir is in the United States on a work permit.  He's a doctor and feels like the executive order treats him like a threat.

Bdeir says he believes that work permit may keep him safe from deportation for the time being, but after that, he's concerned about what comes next. "This ban has the potential to become an indefinite ban and a collective punishment for everyone who was born in Syria, or everyone who was born in Sudan… and so on and so forth."

Bdeir was at a rally in support of refugees outside Cincinnati's City Hall, Monday night.  He says seeing people carrying signs opposing the executive order and welcoming immigrants and refugees made him feel better. "I have big faith in the US democracy. I have big faith in the American people that if you're doing your job here, and if you're doing what you should do, if you're paying your taxes, if you're abiding by the laws, you should be fine."

Attendees chanted slogans like "Build bridges, not walls," a reference to President Trump's promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
Credit Bill Rinehart / WVXU News

Leslee Estrada-Lisnek is a student at Hebrew Union College and came to the rally in part because she's opposed to the administration's policies on immigration. "I think it's horrible to try to ban a religious group. The executive action was framed in a way to try to get away from religious tests, but we know what it's about."

She says she doesn't believe protests like this one will affect Trump's policies. But she's happy with moves to declare Cincinnati a sanctuary city, and she's hopeful council will move forward with an immigrant welcome center.

"I think when we continue to make changes on local levels and bolster support at local levels then we're going to get more and more people involved that will make greater changes throughout the country," Estrada-Lisnek says.

Warren Taylor of Milford and his daughter Molly came to the rally to show support for refugees and immigrants coming to America for freedom from persecution.

Taylor sees activism as a key to getting the attention of elected officials at the local and national levels. "If enough people get out and take responsibility for what's going on and not just sitting back and saying 'well maybe in mid-term elections or in four years, maybe things will swing our way.' People need to step up and voice what they believe. That's what democracy is founded on."

Sami Bdeir says he has been contacted by friends and colleagues since Friday's executive order was signed, many offering support. "That a lot people feel your problem, although it's not theirs. I think it comes from the notion that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. And I'm glad that the US people still hold that belief."