Thousands to lace up sneakers to ‘Run for Refugees’ in New Haven

The Run for Refugees goes off at 10 a.m. at Wilbur Cross High School. (IRIS)

NEW HAVEN, CT (WFSB) –

Before the big football game, thousands of runners will lace up their sneakers and hit the New Haven streets to race for refugees.

A 5k race, called the Run for Refugees, is scheduled to happen on Sunday at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven.

It’s been a year since the president took his tougher stance on illegal immigration and enacted a travel ban.

Two years ago, Omar Moussa was living in a refugee camp in Jordan. Now, the high school junior is chatting with a U.S. senator.

With the anniversary of the executive order being this past weekend, Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he met with children on Friday who were separated from their families as a result of the ban.

"I came to America to continue my education, have a good future," Moussa said. "When I came here ,I didn’t speak any English at all."

Originally for Syria, he now calls New Haven home, along with his mother, father and three siblings.

However, his two other sisters are still stuck in refugee camps.

"She was applying to come here to America, but when Trump came in, she stopped applying," Moussa said. "They told her, we’ll see what’s going to happen, maybe we’ll call you. And I have a sister in Lebanon, the same thing, she was applying to come here and they stopped her."

Blumenthal said he met with students who participated in a specialized tutoring program for refugee youth at Wilbur Cross International Academy, which is run by the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, or IRIS, group.

"We work hard to help them develop a voice and to validate the stories that they come with," said Ann Brillante, assistant principal. "They come with so many languages and so much knowledge, so much incredible potential, so we’re getting them the support to learn English and in four years, transition what it is they want to do next."

Trump’s ban affected immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Last year, IRIS said it helped resettle 530 refugees to the New Haven area. It got them on their feet, helped them get jobs, or in Moussa’s case, with his English and school work.

However, IRIS said its work has become more difficult in the wake of the travel ban.

The race on Sunday marks the group’s biggest fundraising event.

"Its a chance to show the administration that we are not going to just lie down with this restrictions being imposed on refugees resettlement, when the number has dropped from what it should be, 100,000 down to just 45,000," said Chris George, IRIS.

Moussa said he already knows he wants to go to college to become a physician’s assistant.

He said the goal starts in a classroom with help from his teachers and tutors.

"If you don’t study, you don’t have education, you cannot get where you want, you’re not going to get your dreams," Moussa said.

Last year, the race sold out with 2,500 runners. This year, they’ve changed things up a bit to accommodate 3,000 runners.

There’s still time to sign up.

More information on registering for that can be found here.

It starts at 10 a.m. on Sunday right outside of Wilbur Cross High School. Afterward, there will be a post-race party with a number of international foods.

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