DEARBORN, Mich. — The Badat family sat crammed together on their couch Sunday morning, desperately trying, call after call, to reach the other side of the world.
It took half an hour to get through to Ankara, Turkey, where they had left their pregnant daughter, Enas, and her husband three months ago. Back then, it seemed only a matter of time before the young couple would join the Badats and their three younger children in Bloomfield Township in the Detroit suburbs, where they had gained entry as Syrian refugees. Then President Trump issued his visa ban. Overnight, their world shifted.
By the time they reached Enas over a shaky WhatsApp connection Sunday morning, everyone on both sides of the line was crying.
“It took so long to be pregnant; I wanted you to be able to help me,” said Enas, 25 and due in March. She appeared on the phone’s tiny screen in a black hijab, sitting before a tattered gray curtain. Money had grown so tight in recent days she told them, that she was eating little more than small bits of bread and cheese.
“I can’t believe I will now be on my own,” she said.
Since late Friday, when Trump ordered a ban on refugees, migrants and foreign nationals from Syria and six other majority-Muslim nations, few places have embodied the anger, pain and division like the Badats’ newly adopted home in Southeast Michigan. The area surrounding Detroit boasts one of the largest Muslim communities in the nation; Hamtramck, an independent enclave in Detroit, has the country’s only majority-Muslim city council. Over the past two years, Michigan has taken in more refugees from war-torn Syria than any state except California.
And yet, Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes, largely on the strength of disaffected white auto and factory workers angry about their declining economic prospects and the immigrants and refugees who are reshaping their neighborhoods. For them, this weekend brought mostly relief that Trump was living up to his promise to keep them safe from Islamist terrorists and to put Americans first.
At a Fiat Chrysler assembly plant in Warren, just north of Detroit, workers said they have been impressed by Trump’s apparent resolve to renegotiate trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and to bolster American manufacturing.
“He is walking the walk on jobs and NAFTA, so I’m not so worried about these other things everyone’s upset about,” said Joseph Adams, 55, as he rushed through a snow squall at the end of his shift. “We have to do something about ISIS, and if this is what he thinks, I believe his advisers are telling him that it’s a good idea.”
Around him, dozens of autoworkers poured across Mound Road, heading to and from the employee parking lot. Many said they had barely noticed the immigration controversy that had been raging all weekend at airports across the nation and on cable news.
“I had my daughter’s birthday party yesterday, and that’s just much more important to me than whether potential terrorists have had their feelings hurt,” said Donna James, 36.
One worker who didn’t want to give his name because he feared retribution at work said he “doesn’t understand what the big hubbub is. The media cares more about letting Iranians in than about the fact that GM just announced [hundreds of] job cuts. That’s what I want them and Trump to do something about.”
Others in the area said they are already sick of hearing about the Trump presidency.
At Lakeside Mall, in the Trump stronghold of suburban Macomb County, people grumbled about the chaos.
“It’s not the Muslim ban I mind, although I don’t necessarily agree with it. It’s how everything with Trump is drama, drama, drama,” said Jo Franklin, 33, a dental hygienist who voted for Trump.
“It’s like, ‘Get it together, people!’ ” Franklin said, chastising Trump’s inner circle. “He doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing.”
An hour’s drive away, Muna Jondy, an immigration lawyer of Syrian descent, was trying frantically to field hundreds of panicked calls and texts. Every few minutes, her phone buzzed with another plea for help.
“It’s been stressful. You can’t possibly answer them all,” said Jondy, a second-generation immigrant and American citizen. “You get overwhelmed by the responsibility, by the enormity. I’m finding myself snapping at people, even at my own kids at home.”
Since Friday night, Jondy, who also is a board member at the nonprofit organization United for a Free Syria, has heard from wives on vacation abroad and unable to return to their husbands in Michigan.
She has heard from longtime U.S. residents stranded after driving across the Detroit River for dinner with relatives in Windsor, Ontario.
One man asked whether he should propose to a Syrian woman living in Turkey.
“I asked him, ‘How attached are you? Are you willing to move there where she lives? Because the chances of her coming here anytime soon are pretty much zero,’ ” Jondy said. “I’m trying to limit the damage, to give them options. But after Friday, in some cases, there aren’t any options left.”
Beyond the legal questions, thorny existential issues loom. In interviews at mosques, restaurants and cafes, Muslim residents said Trump’s order had darkened their vision of America, the values it represents, its status as the one place in the world they can call home.
Some wondered if the idyllic notions that had brought them here had been naive. Others insisted that Trump’s bitter version of America would not poison their view of their neighbors and their nation.
“America is my present and future,” said Mohammad Ali Elahi, imam of a mosque in Dearborn Heights. “Many of my children were born here. And it hurts my heart to see this country be embarrassed in this way. But I love America.”
A few miles away, leaders of Detroit’s Syrian community struggled with their own conflicted feelings about Trump. Most were appalled by the visa ban and were scrambling to help relatives and friends stranded in the Middle East and Europe.
But not everyone denounced Trump.
Yahya Basha, 70, is a radiologist who came to the United States in 1972 and now chairs the Coalition for a Democratic Syria. He donated to Trump’s campaign and continues to defend him.
A longtime Republican who donated to the Trump campaign, Basha said he had received reassurances from Vice President Pence at a November breakfast in Chicago that Trump would fulfill his promise to secure a safe zone within Syria where refugees from the violence could live without fear of Assad’s bombing raids. Trump’s decision to deny asylum to Syrian refugees wouldn’t be a problem, Basha said, if they could remain in or return to a safe space in their homeland.
“I understand what he meant with what he did on Friday, and I know some of his constituents approved of that,” Basha said. “But the other side is, he has promised to fulfill his election promise to protect the Syrians so they don’t have to leave Syria.”
This struck Shadia Martini, a Syrian American woman who moved to the United States in 1996 and now owns construction and real estate businesses here, as naive. Martini said the visa ban would make America less safe by alienating Muslims worldwide.
“It’s like we send a checkers player to represent the U.S. in the world chess championship,” Martini said. “He cannot see more than one or two steps ahead. . . . Who would make such a law without thinking about the consequences?”
While Martini and Basha argued, a third man, Refaai Hamo, sat quietly. He is a recent arrival from Syria. His wife and daughter were killed in a bombing back home. He became a cause celebre when his story was featured on the “Humans of New York” blog.
“Donald Trump is still in election mode, and everything he’s doing is just for show for the people who elected him,” Hamo said after the meeting. Hamo is still waiting to be granted permanent residency, but he says he does not believe that Trump will interfere with it.
“I have more faith in this country and the American people,” Hamo said. “I still do not believe that those who are here legally are going to be affected by this.”
After ending the call with their stranded daughter in Ankara, the Badat family said that they consider themselves lucky.
Other refugees have shown them recent photos taken by relatives who remain in Syria. Their homes have been reduced to rubble, their loved ones killed in bombings. The Badats escaped that carnage of Aleppo and spent three years in limbo in Turkey. Since arriving in the Detroit area three months ago, the family has been guided by other immigrants, who have helped them secure the two-bedroom apartment in Bloomfield Township, chipped in to help them rent furniture and arranged private English lessons after discovering that the local adult-education classes were full.
While they waited in Turkey, the parents could not work, so the family relied on the income of their 16-year-old daughter Nour, who took 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, at a garment factory.
“America to me meant I could go to school,” Nour said. The idea of it back then had seemed almost like a dream — a dream that now seems imperiled.
“Are we going to get our green cards? Are we going to be allowed to stay here?” Nour wondered. “We don’t know anything anymore.”