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BEFORE he arrived in America in 2013, aged 22, Nur Abdi spent five “very hard” years in India, sustained by the generosity of Somali compatriots. He applied for asylum through the United Nations’ refugee agency, and after a series of “very tough” interviews, he was resettled in Clarkston, just outside Atlanta. Now he works for a Lutheran relief agency, helping other newcomers. Some in his family, who like him fled violence in Mogadishu, are stuck in Ethiopia. Donald Trump’s ban on new Somali visitors threatens his hopes of a reunion.

On March 7th—the day after the president signed the new version of his travel restrictions—Mr Abdi attended a celebration of “new Americans” at Georgia’s state capitol. Troupes from the Andes and Laos danced in resplendent costumes. A technicolour choir of refugee girls sang “This Land is Your Land”. For a finale, a clutch of refugees took the oath of allegiance and became American citizens. The anthem was performed by a former Syrian refugee, and another, Dr Heval Kelli, now a cardiology researcher at Emory University, gave an exhortatory address. “Watering down a bad idea doesn’t make it a good idea,” Dr Kelli says of the revised edict. He would like to sponsor his widowed aunt and cousins to join him from war-ravaged Kobani, but the ban now means he cannot.

The serious purpose of the event, organised by the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies (CRSA), was to lobby legislators. Georgia, like other states, enacts its own immigration-related measures to complement the federal ones. On the roster for the current session are a Trumpesque register of foreign criminals, and punishments for so-called “sanctuary” campuses. Next year’s session may be more demagogic, says Stephanie Ali of New American Pathways, part of the CRSA, because state elections follow it. Volunteers were dispatched to talk to the politicians; Mr Abdi teamed up with Craig Storlie, a Lutheran pastor.

Some of their targets were absent, busy or pretending to be. But Scott Hilton, a freshman Republican, was willing to chat. Mr Storlie told him that 91% of refugees are self-sufficient within six months of arriving in Georgia. (Their economic contribution involves not just ethnic cafés and shops but labour in unappetising industries such as poultry processing.) Then Mr Abdi chimed in. He said he was Somali but had “found a home here, I found a job, I found a dream.” “That’s awesome,” said Mr Hilton.

Now, Mr Abdi went on, it “feels like refugees are no longer welcome.” After all, “they are human beings and deserve a second chance.” Pressed on Mr Trump’s initiative, Mr Hilton cited the need to protect America from “bad guys”. Mr Abdi countered that refugees are themselves “running from the bad guys”. If the embargo endures, he “will not be able to bring [his relatives] here.” “It’s tough,” Mr Hilton conceded. Still, he was “generally supportive” of a temporary ban.