Syrian family adjusts to life in America

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- President Obama on Thursday appealed to the generosity of Americans, asking for online donations to help Syrian refugees.

So far, just a few have re-settled in the U.S., after waiting a long time for clearance.

Like many Syrians, Chadi Rustmo's family home was destroyed by the Assad army, leaving him only memories. Today, the 27-year-old chef no longer fears for his life.

When he learned he was coming to the U.S., Chadi said, "Actually, I was happy. My family will be safe, so we was like very thankful for this chance we got here. I feel lucky."

Chadi's family waited two years in Lebanon before the U.S. government completed their extensive background check.

"It was the longest interview of my life, like seven hours," Chadi recalled. "They asked me about my last five years and what I did, where you was working, what you are doing, all the details about your life."

Then came word that he had passed the test. The Rostmos moved 6,000 miles away, to a leafy, middle class section of Greensboro, North Carolina.

A local charity helped resettle the family, teaching them English, opening bank accounts and finding a home.

Maram is Chadi's 22-year-old sister. She said she didn't know what to expect in the U.S., but has faced some hostility.

"People giving me a hard time cause of my accent, like acting like they don't understand what I'm saying," Maram said. "It's like, okay, I'm different, from different country, why you doing this?"

They worry about their brother, Samer, stuck in Lebanon, and their 70-year-old father who lives alone in Turkey. Both are still being vetted.

"We are not terrorists," Chadi said. "We're just like normal humans, we have a family, we have a life, and we want to work, and that's what we want."

The FBI director said Thursday that the U.S. has gotten better at screening refugees, to make sure they don't pose a terror risk.

The White House has pledged to bring in at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year.

  • Margaret Brennan

    Principally assigned to the State Department, Margaret Brennan also serves as a CBS News general assignment correspondent based in Washington, D.C.