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Teen refugee from Eritrea arrives in San Jose after travel ban delay

The 17-year-old girl arrived alone in San Jose on Friday, marking a new chapter in a painstaking journey that took her from a refugee camp in Ethiopia to a new life in the Bay Area. Waiting at

The 17-year-old girl arrived alone in San Jose on Friday, marking a new chapter in a painstaking journey that took her from a refugee camp in Ethiopia to a new life in the Bay Area.

Waiting at the end of a long passageway was her new foster mother, an Oakland sociologist with no children of her own.

The two women had never spoken, yet they would go home as mother and daughter.

The teenager’s trip to the U.S., after years of waiting, was interrupted by President Trump’s order suspending refugee arrivals and her original trip to San Jose was cancelled. But on Friday, she finally landed at Mineta San Jose International Airport, where she met her foster mother, Laura Fantone, after being greeted by a small crowd holding welcome posters and balloons.

Once an activist in her native Italy, Fantone had volunteered at refugee camps across Europe and welcomed refugees fleeing political turmoil in Yugoslavia. But this time, something spurred her to act in a much larger way, she said.

“I did the (foster parent) training and started to really take in the idea of what it means to open your door, open your home, open your heart to someone that you don’t know,” said Fantone, who teaches at Santa Clara University.

“I’m glad that I have this chance, but a lot of people are still struggling to get out of the countries that have been blocked because they are a Muslim-majority and this is clearly unconstitutional.”

Fantone said she spent Thursday shopping for ingredients to cook traditional Eritrean dishes, which she researched online. Their first few days together will be spent exploring their East Bay neighborhood, shopping, meeting family members and making trips to the library, she said.

The Eritrean girl is going home with Fantone as part of a refugee foster program run by Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County. Catholic Charities, the girl’s legal guardian, declined to identify her in order to maintain her privacy. Since the Eritrean government does not allow people to leave the country, they feared naming her would put her extended family and other loved ones at risk, according to Angela Albright, director of the organization’s refugee foster care program.

Alone in her native Eritrea, the girl fled to Ethiopia to escape political turmoil. In Ethiopia, she lived in a refugee camp for many years.

Albright did not provide details but said the girl is an orphan. She was cleared to enter the U.S. by the United Nations after several years of vetting, according to Catholic Charities, which trains potential foster parents and later matches them with a refugee child.

“These are wonderful human beings who open their homes to kids that they don’t know and often don’t speak the same language,” Albright said. “But they recognize the bigger picture here, that these are kids that deserve a loving home. They deserve a second chance and a new opportunity.”

Catholic Charities’ Refugee Foster Care program is the only program in Northern California that serves unaccompanied refugee children who are fleeing oppression, according to staff.

Critics say that welcoming refugees from around the world puts the U.S. at increased risk of terrorism. Many also argue that refugees take valuable resources away from American citizens who need the same services. At the airport on Friday, one traveler told the crowd welcoming the girl to “go home.”

Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order suspended the entry of residents from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — for 90 days and temporarily suspended U.S. refugee admissions.

After a Washington state judge blocked the order last week, families throughout the Bay Area were reunited with spouses, students, business travelers and vacationers who had been stranded overseas.

The Trump administration appealed the Washington judge’s order, but on Thursday a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the travel ban will remain suspended.

When she arrived In San Jose, a surprise awaited the refugee girl. As she walked past airport security, she saw a familiar face — her best friend from the refugee camp in Ethiopia had also been resettled in the Bay Area. The two cried as they embraced.

Overwhelmed, the girl asked for privacy through a translator and walked off with her best friend and her new foster mother.

Review overview
  • k.tewolde February 15, 2017

    Welcome to this land of milk and honey,the land of generous citizens,you cannot be in a better venue anywhere in the world to realize your dream,hug your new Mom tightly,recapture the childhood that was stolen from you,dream big ,aim high,detox yourself from the poison of the past,bask in the freedom and liberty God has bestowed upon you and don’t forget those you left behind in the land that made you an orphan.

  • Tesfalidet February 15, 2017

    What can I say, may GOD punish Dictator Issayas for all the ills of the Eritrean people.

    • adhanom February 15, 2017

      May the punishment start with the sadist, croock suporters of the beast who are hiding here abusing the generosity and democracy of the country. Death to iseyas the beast and his mad dogs.

  • Mohamed February 15, 2017

    It’s sad that the generation which was supposed to benefit from independence of the country is going elsewhere to look for a better future. Yes, indeed, Iseyas is a beast, a monster, but those who implement his crimes are the real enemy.

  • AHMED SALEH !!! February 15, 2017

    I read the story yesterday which touched me personally as an Eritrean . I wish her better future .

  • Dawit February 15, 2017

    Down to Isias brutal and his blind supporters.
    Down Down Isias.

  • AHMED SALEH !!! February 15, 2017

    our nefahitto find a warm hiding place inside scarico waste land . Two filthy mouth joined forces
    to wage a war of words to slander and curse at every Eritrean who try to defend his pride . To put
    salt into injured soul they try to represent themselves as advocates for Christianity and Tigrigna
    speaking societies . But practically they become worst enemy of peace and harmony .
    And most of all they bring shame and disgrace to Christian faith when they speak EVIL in the name
    Why you keep boasting day and night to please your mighty hero the king of evils SATAN ?
    Why do not share BIBLE scriptures to influence others for righteousness instead wickedness and
    falsehood ? Unless you reject its teachings or you lack proper understanding in holy book doctrine .
    Hollow pride in heart deceive people to speak in defiance with such arrogance . I hope you do not
    forget about Satan in snake skin to deceive our father Adem (Adam) who try to reappear with sheep
    skin to create havoc in this world .

    • Tedla February 15, 2017

      Ahmed, how do you know they are Christians? They could be Moslem too! do not you see saying “The first Eritrean Opposition website??? while it is a pure PFDJ website??? So PFDJ has no faith, sympathy, humanity of any sort and they could be originally Moslem turned PFDJ mafias too!!! So you need to stay open minded. The christian faith has no such immorality and their driving motive is not religion!!!

      • alem February 15, 2017

        They want to disrupt the forum and discourage everybody from sharing important information that can bring desired change in eritrea. These are one or two pfdj goons who are not ready to swallow the bitter reality that their days are numbered, that they are isolated and hated by the people they have abused for so long. They represent the mafia boss and themselves only. They represent nothing.

      • AHMED SALEH !!! February 16, 2017

        That is why people’s lives fell apart after lies had held them together for sometime .

    • alem February 15, 2017

      Hade aklu zixebebo haki zeytewehatelu tesfa zikorexe higdef eyu. Bichinket tae yibel gidefo.

      • AHMED SALEH !!! February 16, 2017

        Such kind of people had been sources of social ills to create destructive atmosphere of mistrust and division among Eritrean communities .

  • Yihdego February 16, 2017

    ሕዝቢ ኤርትራ ንኣካ ዝሀበካሲ ንፀላኢካውን ኣያሀቦ!
    ኣምላክ ምህረት ያውርደልካ!
    ኣብ ምንጋጋ ጭራቅ ስለዛለካ!
    ሙዚቃ:- “እንክርዳድ! እንክርዳድ! የተንከረደደ፣ ደህና መስሎ ገብቶ ስንቱን ኣሳበደ!

  • Petros February 16, 2017

    Eritrea, that was Ghedli professed to be the Land of freedom and democracy, land of lavish refreshing air, land of lavish bio diverse green area, land of Milk and Honey, land of marble and glass finished shining Cities and towns, with its children growing well cared and in comfort, has turned out to be hell on earth, with its children of the 7-tribes scattered all over the earth, the land and the sea, the desert and jungle, like the long lost 7-tibes of Israel, that is accounted in the bible, the Ghedli that brought the dangerous serpent from the barrows of Nakifa into Asmara, in it self, lies powerlessly paralyzed, in a venomous attack of the once believed Liberator, turned out to be a Monster!!! Like his friend Mammar Quadfi, Issayas Afeworki is more likely than not to end his life through Lynching by an Eritrean Mobs!!!