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Refugee family reunited in West Michigan after more than two years apart

Posted at 11:48 PM, Jan 31, 2017

CASCADE TWP., Mich. --  After more than two years apart, a family from the Democratic Republic of the Congo was reunited in Kent County.

Chantal Nyiranziza was joined by her 5-year-old son and several relatives at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, where they welcomed Chantel's husband, Modeste Irakiza, to America.

The couple was separated more than two years ago after Chantal and the couple's son, Lucky, fled violence in Central Africa, spent time in a refugee camp, and made their way to America. Modeste was left behind.

"The family was separated because the wife already applied for refugee resettlement with her family and her siblings and was already in the process of coming," said Kristine Van Noord with Bethany Christian Services. "The refugee process takes so long because the security screening process is so rigorous. It takes about two-and-a-half years for somebody to go through the process. They decided instead of delaying her and her child even longer to add their husband to the case, they would come to safety here in the U.S. and then apply for him to come."

The family had been concerned they wouldn't be reunited following President Trump's executive order on immigration. However, over the weekend they learned Modeste was among the last people allowed to come into the country while the order was put in place.

"This family is extremely blessed they are able to come in," said Van Noord. "Anyone that's not from one of the seven excluded countries who was scheduled for travel prior to Friday, February 3rd, was allowed to be able to continue to come."

"I was crying every single day missing my husband," said Chantal Nyiranziza. "Even now I'm still crying, but the cries I have now is not a cry of sadness but a cry for happiness."

The family says they're looking forward to settling into West Michigan and learning all they can about the U.S.

"First of all, before I say anything, I want to say thank you so much for the government of this country," said Irakiza, "By the will of God, I had hope; but I didn't know when this was going to happen, even when it takes a long time. But sometimes God is going to do His will, and I'm going to meet my family."