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Join me in signing UNHCR's With Refugees petition: http://www.unhcr.org/refugeeday/petition/

In which John meets with Syrian refugees Mufak, Nada, and their five kids in Amman, Jordan, and then a few months later shortly after the family's resettlement in Rockford, Illinois.

Thanks first to Mufak, Nada, their children, and their relatives for being so generous both in Amman and in the United States. Thanks also to Rosianna (http://youtube.com/rosianna), who joined me on both trips and captured much of the footage, and to UNHCR, the UN's Refugee Agency, for introducing me to the family and providing translators.

And thanks to Mark Olsen for his excellent graphic detailing the vetting process refugees go through before being accepted for resettlement in the U.S. You can learn more about that process here: http://refugees.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Security-Check-Steps.pdf

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Good morning, Hank, it's Tuesday. Yesterday was World Refugee Day, so I thought I'd share a story of a family I met while I was in Jordan: Mufak, Nada and their five kids. 

Mufak was trained as a butcher, but he'd become a successful entrepreneur in Syria. But then he had to leave everything behind in 2012 to escape the fighting and after four years in Jordan, where refugees are not legally allowed to work, the family's savings were depleted. But when I met them back in February, they were excited because they were about to be resettled in the United States, specifically Rockford, Illinois. You may have heard it's easy for Syrian refugees to get approved to live in the U.S., but it's just not. There are many, many layers of background checks, involving all kinds of investigations, from iris scans to fingerprinting to lots and lots and lots of interviews. In the case of this family, all told, it took more than two years, but at last, they've been approved.

"We've never been to the U.S. before," Mufak told me. "We're very excited. We can't wait."

Nada told me, "I hope Americans will welcome us. I hope we do not disappoint you."

So a couple weeks ago, Rosianna and I went to Rockford to catch up with the family. LIFE Magazine once said, "Rockford is as nearly typical of the U.S. as any city can be." You know, it's the kind of place where downtown, there's a statue of a white guy holding fireworks and an American flag. It was great to see the family again, and we enjoyed an immense and delicious lunch together, but the dislocation of the move had clearly been difficult. From the language to the weather, from the healthcare system to the grocery store to the appliances, everything was different. Nada explained one profound change to me: "In Jordan," she said, "if we needed to go to a shop, we would find public transportation. Here we have to have a car, or know someone who has a car." She began to cry as she told me she missed her family and was struggling to get used to life so far from them. Her son comforted her, and then told me, "Mom also cries whenever Messi scores."

Everyone in the family is taking English classes. Mufak will soon begin working as a butcher. The kids are in summer school and starting to learn to read and write in English. In short, the situation is complicated and hard and hopeful, like a lot of our lives. But I'd argue that in every way, socially, politically, economically, we are lucky to have this family in our country. 

To be a refugee is to be politicized. Too often we're told that because of their ethnicity or religion, refugees are threats, that our civilization is fundamentally incompatible with their civilization. But of course, that imagines culture as a discreet, unchanging unit, which it isn't. And it also ignores the facts: the fact, for instance, that American soldiers in the Revolutionary War included Yusuf ben Ali and Bampett Muhamed, and the fact that today, more than three million Americans are Muslims, from Dave Chappelle to the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars to my U.S. congressman, Andre Carson. Nada told me she hopes not to disappoint us - well, I in turn hope we do not disappoint her. 

When I asked one of Nada's nephews, who's been in the U.S. for almost a year, what he liked most about his new home, he said, "The law." At first, the translator and I were both confused. We thought he was saying the Arabic word for God, but he was saying (in video: "The order.") the law, which had not existed in Syria and which had prevented him from working in Jordan, was what he liked most about the United States. His family did not come here to change the law - they came to be protected by it.

Hank, last week UNHCR launched a global campaign called With Refugees, asking people to stand with refugees by signing a petition calling on governments around the world to one, ensure every refugee child gets an education; two, ensure every refugee family has somewhere safe to live and three, ensure every refugee can work or learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their community. I hope you'll join me in signing that petition. There's a link in the doobly-doo below.

And just one last thing. That statue in downtown Rockford of the white guy with the flag and the fireworks? His name is Joe Marino. His parents emigrated to the United States from Italy in a time when many Americans believed that Italian Catholics, with their loyalty to the pope, could never be real Americans, participating in a democracy. And now Joe Marino is a symbol of Americanness to the people of Rockford. We contain multitudes, which has always strengthened us. Hank, I'll see you on Friday.