AUSTIN (KXAN) — Until last year, Texas took in more refugees than any other state. Refugee Services of Texas says the state welcomed more than 9,600 refugees and special immigrant visa holders from Iraq and Afghanistan in 2015. So far this fiscal year the group says the state has taken in more than 1,200 refugees, 157 are from Syria and 42 have settled in the Austin area.
In the wake of Tuesday’s chemical attack in Syria, many of the refugees in Austin say they’re too scared to discuss what’s happening on camera. They still have family in Syria and fear talking to the media could cause the government to harm their family members.
Neda Hamid is a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin. While she has lived in Texas her whole life, her father grew up in Syria. He moved to the United States to practice medicine and is a doctor outside of Houston.
“It’s hard to keep a peace of mind knowing that this kind of stuff is happening to your family, or not knowing where your family is,” said Hamid.
Hamid last visited Syria in 2008 and fondly remembers spending precious time with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
She had just finished studying for an exam Tuesday night when she heard news of the chemical attack.
“I kind of broke down, it was horrifying to me.” said Hamid. “Because it’s not something people should have to go through and it’s incredibly traumatic.”
Hamid is able to communicate with family members through messaging apps on her phone. Right now, she’s not sure where several family members are. She says it’s been tremendously hard on her father.
“He kind of falls into a depression about it. Because it’s obviously very terrifying to think, ‘OK I don’t know where my siblings are,'” said Hamid. Her father has 11 brothers and sisters.
Hamid says she wishes she could do more to help, and urges people to donate to organizations helping the Syrian people.