Since August, Murad Awawdeh has been one of many New Yorkers showing up regularly at the Port Authority Bus Terminal to welcome immigrants arriving from Texas.
“It’s been heartbreaking,” said Mr. Awawdeh, the executive director of New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella organization that represents over 200 immigrant and refugee rights groups across New York State.
“Once I get over my anger and frustration, I turn my energy to seeing how I can help these people,” Mr. Awawdeh said of the sudden influx of confused immigrants arriving in Midtown. “You can see the excitement and relief at being free in their faces, and their exhaustion from having fled for their lives,” only to get to the southern border of the United States and be put on buses, he said. “We need to provide people with services and support, and to treat them with dignity and respect.”
The issue is personal for him. As the son of Palestinian immigrants, he was a ninth grader in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. Even as a teenager, he knew the event was “going to change the trajectory of my communities and our lives,” he said. Anti-Muslim sentiment is almost as strong these days as it was in 2001, he added. “There’s always a scapegoat, or there’s a community that’s being targeted.”
Mr. Awawdeh, 35, lives on the south shore of Staten Island with his wife, Dina Morra, 33, who owns a bridal boutique; their two children, Mousa, 7, and Mariam, 3; and their mothers, Awatef Awawdeh and Sanaa Morra, both 68.
THE EARLY SHIFT If I’m meeting the buses, I’m up at 4 a.m. and drive to my office in west Midtown to meet my team, pick up supplies and “dignity care packages,” which contain P.P.E. kits, daily essentials, snacks and service guides. I’m at Port Authority by 6. I meet the volunteers and start talking to people. Then we hand out the care packages until 11. Sometimes I go back to the office and catch up on work. Usually I’m home by noon or 1.
If I’m staying at home, I wake up when my daughter does, 5:30 to 6:30. She’s up at the crack of dawn. I wish I could be a stay-at-home dad, so I want to spend as much time as possible with them. I change and dress her, and then we go into the living room where I try to distract her with fruit, cucumbers and oat milk so I can make breakfast for the family. If she starts wandering around, I put on the TV or give her the iPad. She loves “Sesame Street.”
KITCHEN DUTY I make a traditional Palestinian meal: spicy tomato stew; fried cauliflower; potatoes, mushrooms and onion stir-fry; and eggs. I try to use the least pans possible, so there’s less to clean up. We grow our own mint — because it wouldn’t be a Palestinian home if we didn’t — for our tea. It’s a black tea from Ahmed Tea. I’m also growing a lemon tree which will take years to ripen. I usually start at 7 and everyone comes down with washed faces and brushed teeth, and we have a family meal. We talk about the day’s activity and the week ahead.
YARD TIME We collectively clean up. My wife leaves for work, and the two moms pray. I take the kids to play in our yard, which they love. Having an enclosed backyard has been a godsend. We have two benches, a table, basketball hoop and swing. Sometimes we go to the park, but I might lose one kid, which I don’t want to do, so this is a relief and a privilege.
FAMILY CONTENT I put on a movie for my daughter. She used to hate Elmo, now she loves him, and Disney has a lot of specials like “The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland.” She also likes “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and to listen to “Cocomelon,” which are annoying songs that are on constant repeat. My son’s whole life is anime or playing with his Beyblade, which is like a spinning dreidel. It’s not very enjoyable. You just watch it spin. He was into Legos. We try to get him to do his homework on Friday, so I check to see if he’s done it and we go through it so it’s fresh in his head. The moms watch Arabic soap operas, “El Prince” (The Prince) and “Arous Beirut” (Bride of Beirut) in the basement.
BAY RIDGE SPECIALTIES It takes a village to raise a family. We both work, so it’s nice to have the moms. There are always a lot of people in my house. I’m the middle child of seven siblings. Usually my sisters come over with their kids. I go food shopping for the week. There are not a lot of Middle Eastern shops in Staten Island, so I drive to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to go to the Palestinian shops. I get pita bread, olives, tahini and fresh dates, which are in season right now at Balady, a supermarket with Middle Eastern products. Bay Root Meats has really good sweets, date or sesame cookies, and the best deals on chicken and lamb. Then I go to Taza, a fruit market, to get cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes and cauliflower, which seem fresher than the other stores’. I go in that order because that leaves me a block or two away from my wife’s business.
HANDY HUSBAND At my wife’s shop I help put the garbage together and tie up the cardboard. Then I fix something random, an outlet that doesn’t work or a sink. YouTube is my best friend in these moments.
FAMILY DINNER Texting with my wife and brainstorming about dinner starts once I’m back home. If she wants to cook she’ll make maqluba, a layered dish with meat, vegetables and rice. If my mother-in-law wants to make dinner, it’s mulukhiyah, a soupy dish made with jute leaf (it’s in the spinach family) and chicken, beef or lamb that’s put on top of rice. My wife gets home around 6, and an hour later we are all at the dining room table. Before the buses, my sisters and their kids would have stayed for dinner. But they’ve been leaving early so I can have some quiet time with my family if I’ve been working all day.
DECOMPRESS By 8 both kids are in bed fake-sleeping and are knocked out, real-sleeping, by 8:30. The moms are asleep as well. My mom in her room and my mother-in-law on the pullout sleeper in the basement. My wife and I chitchat and decompress in the living room. We just finished watching “Mo,” a Netflix series about a Palestinian refugee seeking asylum. It’s really resonated for both of us, so we are watching it again. We’re also watching “Game of Thrones.”
BED By 11 we have both showered and are in bed. My wife knocks out first. For the next hour I skim through emails or catch up on news that I should have read earlier on my phone in the dark — The New York Times, The Washington Post, MSNBC, articles about immigration, what happened on the morning shows and top headlines on other cable news networks — to prepare for week ahead.