Immigration

The International Institute of St. Louis building.
File photo | Emanuele Berry | St. Louis Public Radio

A federal appeals panel's ruling last week lifted a travel ban for residents of seven predominantly Muslim countries, but it didn't change one crucial aspect of President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration: a 50,000 cap on refugees allowed to enter the United States.

That's is a significant drop, considering that the Obama administration raised the cap from 85,000 to 110,000 for the 2017 federal fiscal year, which extends from last October to this September. As a result, local organizations that resettle refugees, such as the International Institute of St. Louis, are finding themselves in a difficult position, having originally planned for a larger intake of people.

Soumya Chatterjee, a scientist at Saint Louis University, peers into a microscope in his laboratory, where he studies pathogens, such as tuberculosis.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

President Donald Trump's executive order last month reduced the cap of refugees allowed into the United States from 110,000 to 50,000. That means that fewer refugees will be resettled into areas like St. Louis.

But the cap also is curtailing disease research across the country. To understand diseases that are widespread in poor, war-torn countries, scientists study refugees from those nations that are infected with those diseases.

Bac Le, 70, picks up his grandson after studying for his citizenship test with a tutor from Bilingual International Assistant Services. Le moved to St. Louis from Vietnam to be near his children.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Between learning U.S. civics and history to acing all four parts of the naturalization exam — passing the U.S. citizenship test is no walk in the park. For older immigrants who don’t speak English, the learning curve can be even steeper.

“Think about your own grandmother,” said Jason Baker, executive director with Bilingual International Assistant Services. “Imagine her trying to learn a completely foreign language at an advanced age. And then in that foreign language learn about the Federalist Papers and be able to produce it on command. Some grandmothers will be able to do it. Others will not. Mine certainly couldn’t.”

Faizan Syed, Jessica Mayo and Anna Crosslin joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss the local impact of President Trump's executive orders on immigration.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Last week, President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders that sent the lives of many into chaos — in St. Louis and across the world.

Sina Nassiri and Mehrdad Alvandipour are Iranian students at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

In August 2015, Mehrdad Alvandipour arrived in the United States from Iran to pursue graduate degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

“Basically, I love science,” he said. “That’s the reason I traveled here, to study at a good university and improve myself.”

Alvandipour hoped that studying at SIUE would put him on track to become a professor at an American university. But President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration has him, and other international research students in the St. Louis region, worried about the future.

Summer Albarcha stands with friends at a rally to show support for immigrants and refugees outside Sen. Roy Blunt's Clayton office. This week, Blunt released a statement expressing support for President Trump's executive order on immigration. (Feb 2, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Protesters gathered outside Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s office in Clayton Wednesday to voice their opposition to President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Hamishe Bahrani, at the restaurant she created with her husband: Cafe Natasha's. Bahrami sits in front of a wall of infused gins; her specialty.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The call came in the middle of the night; Hamishe Bahrami’s childhood friend would be unable to visit from Iran.

“Today, she was supposed to arrive in St. Louis,” Bahrami said Monday. “She was so excited to come, visit St. Louis and see my life in person. We don’t know if we’re going to see each other again.”

Anna Crosslin is joined by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay to talk about the importance of immigrants in the region. Jan 30, 2017
Erica Hunzinger | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis leaders are decrying the Trump administration’s executive order that bars refugees from coming to the United States for 120 days. The order also prevents those from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia – from entering the U.S. for 90 days.

President Trump's executive order on immigration late Friday ignited nationwide protests — and a slew of legal challenges.

At least four federal judges across the country have blocked part of the order and temporarily ensured refugees and travelers who reached U.S. soil would not be deported.

Here's an explanation of what happened so far and what could come next.

Protesters gathered outside the Terminal 1 departure area at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on Jan. 29, 2017.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated to include information about Sunday's protest and official responses at 7:50 p.m.

St. Louisans gathered throughout the region over the weekend to protest President Donald J. Trump's executive order barring citizens of seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

Areli Muñoz Reyes, who is enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, attends St. Louis Community College at Forest Park.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For the past two years Missouri legislators in Jefferson City have sent a strong message to undocumented students in the region: you can go to college in Missouri, but we won’t make it easy.

That's what it looks like, at least, to Areli Muñoz Reyes a student  St. Louis Community College at Forest Park who started in the fall of 2015. Already worried about what will happen to undocumented students under the administration of Donald Trump, she’s also facing steep tuition rates without the state-funded scholarship she worked hard for.

Faizan Sayed, executive director of Missouri’s branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations, organized a news conference to speak out against current events in Syria.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Several of the 300 families of Syrian refugees who have settled in the St. Louis area this year are still afraid to publicly condemn their former government's attacks on Aleppo — even living so far away from their native country.

“They’re worried that someone’s going to see their picture or their [social media] feed on TV, they’re going to find out who [they are] and they’re going to hurt their family in Syria,” said Faizan Sayed, executive director of Missouri’s branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Sayed reached out to at least 20 Syrian families asking them to speak at CAIR press conference Thursday denouncing the bombardment of rebel-held neighborhoods in Aleppo. Every single one turned him down.

Arjun Sidhu holds an American flag while sitting with his mother, Mandeep Sidhu, originally from India, at a naturalization ceremony held at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site on Nov. 10, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

While much of the nation remains at odds over the results of the November elections, some people are feeling more optimistic for the future than ever. Newly naturalized U.S. citizens in the St. Louis region are excited to be a part of the country, and many are raring to vote.

At a naturalization ceremony held last week at the International Institute of St. Louis, 39 people from 24 different countries stood together in front of a crowded room for the first time as new citizens.

Among them was Lenilson Pereira Dos Santos Coutinho, a clinical medial physicist who was born in Brazil. Coutinho, who came to the United States for graduate school, laments not being able to vote on Nov. 8. Now that he’s a citizen, he can’t wait for future elections.

Katie Herbert Meyer and Stephen Legomsky discussed the efforts of Migrant & Immigrant Community Action Project in St. Louis on St. Louis on the Air.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Since Nov. 9 and the results of the presidential election, the phones have been “ringing off the hook” at St. Louis’ Migrant & Immigrant Community Action Project. MICA is a local nonprofit that provides immigration law services at a reduced cost for documented and undocumented immigrants who cannot afford to pay the thousands of dollars it would take to retain an attorney in asylum, work authorization and other kinds of immigration cases.

Kamila Kahistani cast her first vote as an American citizen in 2016's November election.
Jenny Simeone | St. Louis Public Radio

In response to an outpouring of client concern, local immigrant advocacy organizations are hosting information sessions on what a Trump presidency will mean for St. Louis immigrants.

Among those who are concerned is Kamila Kahistani, who arrived in the United States with her sister seven years ago from Afghanistan. She was a refugee when she came via Russia, escaping war in her native country. Kahistani, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen five years ago, doesn’t worry about how immigration policy changes would affect her. But she does worry for the family members she’s petitioning to bring into the country.

International Institute staff and volunteers serve a Thanksgiving meal to new refugees and immigrants to the St. Louis area on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016.
Hannah Westerman | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Nov. 23 with corrected numbers – Thanksgiving came a little early for hundreds of refugees and immigrants who gathered for a meal with all the trimmings Tuesday afternoon at the International Institute in St. Louis.

The Institute, which serves as the region’s “Welcoming Center for New Americans,” said it has served more than 1,000 new refugees in the last year, from countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria and Iraq.

“We’re pleased that it’s an all-American holiday that has meaning all around the world,” said President and CEO Anna Crosslin.

Miley, age 4, whose mother is undocumented, receives a letter of support and encouragement during a community dinner at Kingdom House on Nov. 17, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On Nov. 8, Martha’s 8-year-old daughter didn’t want to go to school.

“When I asked her why, she said she was worried that if [Donald] Trump won, I wouldn’t be there to pick her up after school,” Martha said, in Spanish. “I told her, if he wins or not, I’ll be there for you.”

That certainty could wane in January. The president-elect has pledged to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants after his inauguration. Martha, who is undocumented, said the election results have heightened her and her family’s fears about deportation.

Two immigrant men hang suspended in the air as window washers in the play "Spended"
Provided by ProPhotoSTL.com

As the St. Louis metro area continues to take note of the region's growing status as a magnet for newcomers from other countries, Upstream Theater will launch "Suspended," a play that aims to break down assumptions about immigrants.

Director Linda Kennedy said stories about the relationship between immigrants and longtime residents can strengthen both communities.

Sarah Paradoski and Ramona Marshall discussed the Immigrant and Women's Refugee Program on "St. Louis on the Air."
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Imagine leaving your home and moving to a country that doesn’t share your customs, where you can’t understand the language and where you have to re-learn basic life skills in order to survive in your new context.

Most immigrants and refugees living in the United States don’t have to imagine these challenges. Learning to overcome linguistic, cultural and social barriers is just part of their reality.

Mariana Flores holds her son, Jitzak Mejia, 4, outside the federal courthouse in St. Louis this past April. Immigration reform supporters gathered in cities across the country as the Supreme Court heard arguments in United States v. Texas on April 18.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Naomi Carranza and Mariana Flores are sitting at a kitchen table while Flores’ five sons run around the room playing. While the youngest boy tugs his mom’s shirtsleeve, Carranza says that she thinks of the boys as her own kids.

The two women met less than a year ago and are nine years apart in age, but they act as though they have known each other forever. They tease each other like sisters and often finish each other’s sentences. They can share knowing glances from across a room.

J Freivogel, Sara Sitzer and Dana Hotle discussed the Gesher Festival on "St. Louis on the Air."
Mary Edwards | St. Louis Public Radio

In Hebrew, the word “gesher” means bridge. The theme of this year’s Gesher Music Festival, which runs through Aug. 21, is taking that title to heart by bridging divides over immigration using chamber music.

This is the festival’s sixth year and features a variety of events, including three main concerts around St. Louis all around the theme “American Dreams.”

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

A musical collaboration between the International Institute of St. Louis and the St. Louis Symphony will have the sounds of Syria, Somalia, Palestine, Bosnia, Congo and Cuba streaming from the gym at the institute come May 3.

The purpose of Music Without Boundaries is to make immigrants new to the area feel welcomed by connecting them to the sounds of their homeland.

For Maureen Byrne, the director of community programs at the St. Louis Symphony, the collaboration was a logical fit.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Susan Gobbo, a native of Brazil, moved to the United States in 2005 and then to St. Louis in 2008 with her husband, who was offered a position stateside with Nestle Purina. Sounds like an exciting move, right?

One problem: Gobbo, a trained and licensed physical therapist in her home country, was not able to find a physical therapy job in the United States because many medical facilities viewed her as unqualified. The costs for training and recertification were high, so Gobbo’s high expectation of life in the U.S. deflated a little bit.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

While Donald Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric about immigrants (calling Latino immigrants “criminals” and “rapists,” for example) has scored thousands of headlines across the globe, political scientist Zoltan Hajnal said there is a growing number of white, working class Americans who back up those kind of beliefs.

Sadik Kukic, far left, Benjamin Moore, Akif Cogo and Patrick McCarthy listen to a live stream of Radovan Karadzic's verdict while gathered at the Bosnian Chamber of Commerce on Gravois Avenue.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The European war crimes trial that’s been called “the largest since Nuremburg” ended Thursday, bringing uneasy relief to the St. Louis Bosnian community. Former Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic was convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity and one count of genocide, but many of the region's Bosnians still felt underwhelmed by the decision.

"A guilty verdict on any count is better than no guilty verdict. And that’s against the backdrop of realizing that the mere existence of a crime tribunal is a failure,” said Dina Strikovic. “It’s a failure to act. It’s a failure to prevent."

International Institute of St. Louis president and CEO Anna Crosslin, today, and with her parents in Tokyo in 1952.
Anna Crosslin

The head of the International Institute of St. Louis says she is looking forward to taking her passion for equity to a statewide level.

Anna Crosslin is one of Gov. Jay Nixon's two nominees to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. The Commission investigates complaints about discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on factors like race, gender, and national origin.

Texas Room recording Session
Provided by Jarred Gastriech

Last year local musician Louis Wall decided to record and produce an album pairing St. Louis-born with immigrant musicians. At the time, he didn’t know it would expand to include roughly 50 people from 15 countries across five continents. Wall says the key to making an album with that many contributors is keeping it accessible to everyone.

“I mean, this is probably just pop music 101, but it’s having people relate to many broad things,” he said.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

The president of Maryville University’s Muslim Student Association wants to set something straight:

“People need to understand that the real face of Islam is the face you see in front of you right now,” said Shehmin Awan. “It is us three people. It’s the billions of people who are practicing peacefully. It is not the face of ISIL or ISIS or whatever you want to call it. It’s not the face of a terrorist.

James Fernandez and Luis Agreo.

A Spanish author and filmmaker and NYU professor have come to St. Louis this week to do field work and discuss their book about Spanish immigration in the U.S. — particularly to St. Louis. Luis Agreo and Dr. James D. Fernandez travelled the world for nine years to understand the plight of Spanish immigrants across the globe.  It is called "Invisible Immigrants: Spaniards in the U.S. (1868-1945)."

Bosnians gathered near the Sebilj Fountain
File photo | Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Twenty years ago the Dayton Peace Accord put an end to the extreme violence and ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian War. But many St. Louis Bosnians feel the document left the country with no road to progress.

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