How One Syrian Family Found Life in Michigan After War

“Life became a prison," Louai Mohammad Al Zoubi said.

— -- For weeks, Louai Mohammad Al Zoubi and his family were huddled in a basement with 40 others as bombs and missiles fell around them in Daraa, Syria.

He, his wife and his four children, including one who has special needs, rationed food and water as they tried to wait out the war.

“Life became a prison," he said. "We were just waiting for death."

That was three years ago.

Al Zoubi moved to Michigan with his family in April. Since the conflict began, the U.S. has taken in more than 1,800 Syrians, but have pledged to accept more than 100,000 refugees from around the world by 2017.

“[In Syria], there are no rules. The strong eat the weak," he said. "What I like about here is people abide by the rules. You feel like people care. You feel like a human being who is actually living.”

This week, various governors have announced their states will no longer be accepting Syrian refugees in response to the terror attacks in Paris.

The Governor of Michigan, where Al Zoubi and his family live, was one of the first to announce his state will stop taking in Syrians for the time being. The Detroit metro area has one of the highest concentrations of Arab descendants in the country and a huge refugee population.

Al Zoubi describes the five hour walk to the border as very dangerous. “We used to hear the sounds of missiles. Above us, you’d see the missiles falling,” he said.

Habeeb Al Zoubi, who was six years old at the time, has special needs, so he spent the entire journey on his father’s back.

Once they made it safely to Jordan, they stayed in a border camp for one night, then found a place to live in the city of Ajloun.

Nine months and lots of medical exams, paperwork and interviews later, his family was on a plane to Michigan.

“For me, I find life is easier here for my kids. Like with school, their security, their safety,” said Al Zoubi. “I’m at ease now because here in America, we don’t have to struggle for basic life needs like [in Syria].” He is currently working as a construction worker as his wife stays at home with the four children. Al Zoubi says even the smallest things in Syria, like getting toys for the kids, was a struggle because basic infrastructures of society had been ravaged by war.