Refugees, resettlement agencies anxious over new immigration order

Refugees anxious over new travel order

President Trump has signed a new immigration order. It makes some changes from the first executive order that temporarily banned travel from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Iraq is no longer on the list.

Syrian refugees are not indefinitely banned.

It does not apply to existing green card holders or people who got a visa before Jan. 27, the date of the original executive order.

The new immigration order doesn't go into effect until March 16.

“It's very disappointing there's not a whole lot of difference between this executive order and the earlier executive order,” said Jan Elfers, the Executive Director of the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, one of the refugee resettlement agencies in Portland.

Like the previous executive order, the new one calls for a 90-day ban on people traveling from six predominantly Muslim countries. They include Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen. Iraq was taken off the original list. There is still a 120-day halt of the U.S. refugee program, so that the federal government can develop more in depth vetting procedures.

“Certainly there's a sense of urgency. The problem is we can't expedite. The process will just take how long it takes,” said Elfers regarding the paperwork required for refugees to enter the United States.

She said there are currently 25 refugees with Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon who need to get their travel documents straightened out by the deadline. They may or may not be able to come to the U.S.

“Across the country there are hundreds of people who are waiting, who are on hold, who don't know what their future will be,” said Elfers.

Britt Conroy, who deals with public policy at the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, said even if refugees get their travel documents approved by the deadline, they still might not be able to get into the United States.

“110,000 individuals would have been approved to come to the U.S. this fiscal year and now this current administration is dropping that to 50,000,” Conroy said.

Both Conroy and Elfers said the U.S. is getting close to that cap. In addition, they say that if resettlement agencies do not resettle refugees for 120 days, they’re worried they will have to lay off staff. Resettlement agencies depend on federal dollars. Money is received for each refugee who is resettled.

Conroy said they’ve already started asking for private donations to keep operations running, so that after the 120-day period, there will still be staff to help refugees get settled.

Bill Currier, the Chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, said the second executive order clarifies the first.

“Anyone with an existing visa is allowed in or the green card issue, these are clarifications,” said Currier.

Currier also responded to a comment from U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, who has said the executive order makes Americans less safe.

“We need to know who's coming in from these countries and we need to properly vet them, and for him to say this makes us less safe because it somehow antagonizes ISIS is really detached from reality,” said Currier.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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