Over dinner of chicken, yogurt and bread, the Al Salibi family told the terrifying story about the day soldiers in their native Syria stopped their son Mahmoud, now 19, at a checkpoint.
He was questioned and asked to show ID.
"It was OK. He wasn't taken away," Ali Al Salbi said through an interpreter.
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But that moment convinced the Al Salibis they had to get out. "There was no security whatsoever," Al Salibi said.
That was 2012. Now five years later, the family of six is settling into a new modest home in Erie, Pennsylvania. They've been in America about six months.
"It's a good place," he said, adding that whenever he tells people in Erie he's a refugee, they smile and say, "Welcome."
The Trump administration is fighting to roll up the welcome mats. The president's immigration order, if it goes into effect, would stop any refugees from entering for 120 days. In addition, Trump has capped at 50,000 the total number of refugees who would be allowed in this year. That's less than half of the 110,000 level that President Barack Obama had set. In 2016, more than 84,000 refugee resettlements happened in the U.S., the largest number during the Obama years.
Erie has embraced so many refugees that this Rust Belt city that's seen more prosperous times has one of the highest concentrations in the U.S. of people who've fled persecution. As many as 700 refugees annually have been arriving here in recent years — from Syria, Iraq, Bhutan, Congo, among other countries.
In fact, the Mayor's office says refugees make up some 18% of the city's population of about 100,000.
Two agencies, Catholic Charities and the International Institute of Erie, are tasked with greeting the new arrivals.
"I think it's kept U.S. alive. I think it has kept U.S. moving forward," said Paul Jericho of the Multi-Cultural Community Resource Center.
Jericho has been helping refugees resettle since Vietnamese families started arriving during that war in the 1970's. He agency helps find jobs, homes, English classes, and everything else families new to this country need.