A welcome mat was literally rolled out for refugees resettled in the U.S. at a somewhat unexpected locale Saturday: President Trump’s childhood home.
In a pointed message, international charity Oxfam invited four refugees from three countries to spend the day at the Queens, New York, home where Trump spent his earliest years.
“Oxfam hosted refugees at President Trump’s childhood home to declare that all people, refugees included, have the right to a safe place to call home,” Shannon Scribner, Oxfam America’s acting director for humanitarian programs and policy said in a press release.
The Tudor-style home, photos of Trump displayed throughout, had been available for rent through Airbnb since this summer. Oxfam booked the house for the day at a cost of $725, spokeswoman Lauren Hartnett told NPR.
The Airbnb listing has since been removed from the web site for unknown reasons. The person behind the listing, Michael Davis, had been leasing it from an anonymous owner, who bought it from Davis in March for $2.14 million, reports The New York Times. The Trump family moved out when the future president was four.
In a statement, Oxfam said Saturday’s visit was a “call for greater action by the US government and governments around the world to resettle and help refugees,” whose “experiences give a face and a voice to an issue that is too often politicized with myths, lies, and fears.”
Ghassan Shehadeh, a 41-year-old Syrian refugee, arrived in the United States with his wife and three children in 2012, reports The Associated Press. “For us, it was a dream come true.”
Uyen Nguyen fled Vietnam when she was 10 years-old, losing most of her family, said Oxfam. When she came across a bed in Trump’s old home, it provoked a powerful thought.
“The image of him sitting on that bed really brought back to me the basic commonality among humanity, in that we all just want a roof over our head,” Nyugen said, reports CNN. “It really just reminded me that we all start in the same place.”
Abdi Iftin and Eiman Ali both fled Somalia. Ali was resettled in North Carolina as a toddler.
“Knowing Donald Trump was here at the age of four makes me think about where I was at the age of four,” said Ali according to AP. “We’re all kids who are raised to be productive citizens, who have all these dreams and hopes.”
She said her idea of the American dream “is starting to feel threatened.”
The New York Times reports that the administration is considering moving the cap below 50,000, the lowest number since at least 1980.
It comes during the highest levels of displacement on record, according to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. In all, nearly 66 million people have been displaced from their homes, including 22 million people the agency classifies as refugees. They are escaping war, violence and persecution. The majority of refugees come from three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan.
Oxfam said by hosting the refugees at Trump’s home, it is sending a message at a crucial time when so many lives are at stake.
“In the coming weeks, President Trump will announce his decision on the number of refugees the US will resettle in 2018,” the organization said in a statement. “Congress will finalize spending bills, which determine the level of financial support the federal government will dedicate to aiding and resettling refugees. And the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the President’s unconstitutional refugee and Muslim ban.”
After months of legal wrangling, the Supreme Court is set to take up the travel ban this fall.
On Tuesday, Trump addressed the UN’s General Assembly for the first time and touted U.S. involvement in the Syrian refugee crisis.
“The United States is a compassionate nation and has spent billions and billions of dollars in helping to support this effort,” Trump said according to a transcript released by the White House “We seek an approach to refugee resettlement that is designed to help these horribly treated people, and which enables their eventual return to their home countries, to be part of the rebuilding process.”
Trump also reiterated his call to keep refugees closer to their home. “For the cost of resettling one refugee in the United States, we can assist more than 10 in their home region,” he said. “We have learned that, over the long term, uncontrolled migration is deeply unfair to both the sending and the receiving countries.”