Bloomington advocates celebrate World Refugee Day

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The national conversation of families being separated at the U.S. - Mexico border has advanced to a global scale. Wednesday, June 20 is World Refugee Day. Groups in Bloomington came together to honor the day by advocating for refugees and immigrants.

"We started seeing buildings being destroyed and we saw people dying and my dad said ‘we're gonna save our life, we're going to leave everything and just leave the country,’" said Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhamwi.

Mohammed and his parents have been in Bloomington a little more than two years after a nearly four-year process fleeing Syria. Now fluent in English and a recent graduate, he and his parents have made a life for themselves that they feel proud of. And that's thanks to the warm welcome they received.

The event was a melting pot of stories from present day to decades ago when W. Jack Kahn and his family fled Nazi Germany.

"I was in Chile when my father was able to get the necessary papers to come to the United States and we reunited in January 1941," Kahn said.

This year's World Refugee Day has a deeper meaning for the Bloomington Refugee Support Network as they honor the day with the images of children separated from their parents at the border on their minds.

"I think this is one of those urgent times when we have to ask ourselves ‘do I care or can I step away from this.’ It's one or the other. You can't be neutral," Dianne Legomsky said.

Mohammed says he couldn't think of making the trip to America and being separated from his parents.

"I don't know. I cannot imagine myself with this decision especially for people running for more or from bad situations so I feel bad about that. Nobody deserves to happen like this," Mohammed said.

Despite what's happening at the border and the uncertainty of what's to come, Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton wants to send a message that refugees and immigrants are welcome in their city.

"As mayor I'm so proud to be a mayor of a city full of people who opened their arms and welcomed people from all around the world," Mayor Hamilton said.

World Refugee Day is recognized the same day every year. This is the 18th year recognizing the event globally.