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Toronto-based Syrian children’s choir turns down festival over fears of crossing U.S. border

U.S. President Donald Trump takes part in a working lunch with governors in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2018. .
U.S. President Donald Trump takes part in a working lunch with governors in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2018. . Leah Millis/Reuters

A Toronto-based Syrian children’s choir turned down an opportunity to perform at an international festival, its founder says, due to fears about crossing the American border under the Trump administration’s travel ban.

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

Tang says most of the choir members immigrated to Canada within the last two years, 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.

READ MORE: Fact check: Donald Trump overstates scope of order on border policy that keeps families together

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

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Tang says the choir is meant to be a therapeutic way for the children to learn Canada’s official languages through song, and she didn’t want to risk re-traumatizing them if U.S. officials denied them entry.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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