A group of faith leaders and others welcomed what appears to be the first family of Syrian refugees to settle in Rhode Island. The family arrived at T.F. Green airport on Thursday evening to find a group of well-wishers holding signs and balloons.
Sterk Zaza, a member of the state's Muslim community, said the family was exhausted from several days of travel and surprised by the warm welcome.
"They're overwhelmed right now," said Zaza "It was a really nice, quiet way to welcome them to Rhode Island."
The Rhode Island Council of Churches captured the family's arrival in a video posted on the group's Facebook page. Zaza said she expects more Syrian families to arrive over the next few months.
As recently as November, advocates held dueling rallies at the Rhode Island Statehouse as a national debate played out over Syrian refugees . Proponents argued for compassion for Syrians fleeing violence and dire conditions in their home country. Opponents cited the need for stronger security measures to ensure that terrorists would not gain entrance the country under the guise of being refugees.
While some governors have sought to block Syrians from entering their states, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said she would welcome refugees if the Obama Administration asked her to.