Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Syrian Children's Choir Not to Attend Festival over Fears about U.S. Travel

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Syrian Children's Choir Not to Attend Festival over Fears about U.S. Travel

Article excerpt

Syrian children's choir avoids U.S. travel


TORONTO - A Toronto-based Syrian children's choir will not be travelling to the United States to perform at an international festival due to fears about crossing the border under the Trump administration's travel ban, its founder said Saturday.

Fei Tang, general manager of the Nai Kids Choir, said the chorus of about 60 Canadian newcomers between the ages five and 15 were invited to perform at the Serenade! Choral Festival in Washington, D.C., next week.

Tang said she was thrilled by the opportunity for the children to sing alongside choirs from all over the world in the U.S. capital, but there was just one issue -- getting there.

"We looked at the political climate ... and decided we probably wouldn't be able to go," she said with a sigh. "It's just not practical."

Most of the choir members immigrated to Canada within the last two years, said Tang, and some parents worried that travel documents from their home country would raise red flags under a U.S. policy that bans travellers from five majority-Muslim countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

It also affects two non-Muslim countries, blocking travellers from North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families.

The group considered trying to obtain U.S. visas for the children, but rather than "risk their happiness," said Tang, the choir decided to make other plans.

"In the current immigration policy south of the border, I don't even see that as worth trying," she said.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection directed a request for comment to the U.S. State Department, saying it was a visa issue. Representatives for the Department were not available for comment Saturday.

Hadeel Abou Ishmes, who came to Toronto with her family eight months ago from the Syrian capital of Damascus, said her two children are heartbroken that the choir's trip was cancelled. …

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