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As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, we take a look at how this issue connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.Our region is home to a unique blend of immigrants who work in all parts of our economy — from high-tech to agriculture. This population already has a deeply-rooted history here. And its ranks are expanding rapidly.Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform address border security, employment verification, guest-worker programs and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.

Photos by 11-year-old Syrian girl as her parents mourn Trump's order

Alaa, age 11, takes a selfie with a reporter's camera.
Alaa, age 11, takes a selfie with a reporter's camera.

Alaa Al Halabi's big sister was supposed to move here on Monday. 

But President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries. 

Among them, Syria, where Alaa was born 11 years ago. Alaa's big brother, Mohamad, was pulled out of school in 10th grade so the family could flee. They moved to Turkey, where their grown children are now. Alaa's big sister is seven months pregnant.  

Their flight to the U.S. was canceled. 

On Sunday, a reporter visited the Al Halabis to see how they're doing. They had been separated from their two older children for one month and 17 days. Imtithal Al Halabi, the family matriarch, spoke with them by video chat.

Young Alaa grabbed the reporter's camera and started taking photos. The others didn't pay her mind, and she ended up with images that show how people will share a smile with a child even in moments of extreme grief.  

Camera in hand, Alaa spoke to her 19-year-old brother in Arabic, and he hammed it up to make her laugh, flexing his muscles.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Mohamad Al Halabi, as seen by his younger sister.", "fid": "133395", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201701/alaa.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Alaa Al Halabi"}]][asset-images[{"caption": "Alaa's mother, Imtithal Al Halabi.", "fid": "133396", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201701/alaa-2.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Alaa Al Halabi"}]][asset-images[{"caption": "Alaa watches her family speak with a reporter from outside the room. Alaa's big brother and sister, who is seven months pregnant, would not move to the U.S. after all. The family will be separated indefinitely. ", "fid": "133397", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201701/alaa-7.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Alaa Al Halabi"}]]

[asset-images[{"caption": "Alaa takes a photo of her 19-year-old brother, Mohamad Al Halabi. Mohamed Al Halabi was pulled out of school in the 10th grade; he worked odds and ends jobs to help his family in Turkey. Now in the U.S., he worries about his future. He also works hard to keep on a happy face for his little sister. ", "fid": "133398", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201701/alaa-8.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Alaa Al Halabi"}]][asset-images[{"caption": "The Al Halabi family, at least some of them, as photographed by young Alaa: Ahmed, Mohamad and Imtithal.", "fid": "133399", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201701/alaa-3.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Alaa Al Halabi"}]] 

[asset-images[{"caption": "Imtithal Al Halabi, the family matriarch, after speaking via video chat with her two grown children, who are stuck in Turkey because of President Donald Trump's executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries.", "fid": "133400", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201701/alaa-5.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Alaa Al Halabi"}]]  

[asset-images[{"caption": "Alaa takes another selfie. ", "fid": "133401", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201701/alaa-10.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Alaa Al Halabi"}]]  

[asset-images[{"caption": "Mohamad Al Halabi, right, and their resettlement case manager at the family home in Tukwila. The Al Halabis moved here from Syria, by way of Turkey.", "fid": "133403", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201701/alaa-9.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Alaa Al Halabi"}]]A family friend said the three family members in Turkey were devastated by the ban on Syrian refugees, and the last-minute cancelation of their relocation to Seattle.  She summed up their initial reactions:

"Their son Walid...posted on Facebook when the ban was issued that 'We are not terrorists. We want to live in peace.' Also the son-in-law (the father-to-be) said that all his hopes and dreams that he built on being allowed to come to the U.S, are now crushed."


Year started with KUOW: 2006