July 30, 2017

Middle East refugees on what surprises them most about America

Erie, Pennsylvania, is home to tens of thousands of refugees. Most reside in the city of Erie. According to one study, no other small American city received more refugees between 2012 and 2016, about 4,000, including hundreds from Iraq and Syria.

In Erie, we met Abdul Sitar, a recent refugee from Syria. Sitar, his wife and two children had been in the U.S. only seven months after spending three years in a refugee camp in Istanbul.

Sitar said he was very surprised by the warm welcome he received in the U.S., compared to treatment he got in Istanbul, Turkey, where refugees have few rights and access to few services.
Like Abdul, upon arriving in Erie, Hiba Alsabonge was struck by how friendly, polite and law-abiding Americans are. “This is amazing,” said Hiba, who is from Iraq. “Honestly I get a lot of support, the people here in the United States they’re so friendly, so helpful and they are accepting each other, it doesn’t matter who you are. They don’t treat you based on your race or your background. That’s my experience by living here in the United States.”

This video was originally featured as a part of the Washington Examiner’s series The Race to 2020: The people and places that will define a presidency. You can read more about Erie County, see more videos, or use the form below to get email updates about future updates.

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