Trump's Actions Leave Refugees In Limbo

Jan 28, 2017
Originally published on January 28, 2017 2:26 pm
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The president's executive order on refugee resettlement leaves many refugees already in the U.S. in a state of limbo. NPR's Joel Rose has this story.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: It's been just over a month since Mohammed Shagleel (ph) arrived in the U.S.. Shagleel is a Syrian refugee. His family left its home in Damascus more than four years ago and fled to Jordan.

MOHAMMED SHAGLEEL: My mother now in Amman, Jordan. She lived with me with my brother's family there.

ROSE: Today, Shagleel is in New Haven, Conn. He was expecting his mother to join him there once the security vetting process was finished, but that now seems unlikely. Shagleel doesn't know exactly what President Trump's executive action means for his family, but he does know this.

SHAGLEEL: It's bad. It's very bad. I don't know what is coming in the next days. Is it just the beginning now this laws - this new laws is just beginning. I don't know.

ROSE: The president's action blocks all refugee resettlement from Syria - at least for now - and it includes a 120-day moratorium on all refugees entering the U.S. Resettlement agencies say there will be many families like Shagleel's split in half by the sudden change. Jennifer Sime is with the International Rescue Committee in New York.

JENNIFER SIME: There are people sitting in refugee camps or in cities living in not great circumstances who may even have been fully vetted by now and literally are just waiting for their departure dates or their medical exams.

ROSE: It's not clear what will happen to those people. President Trump says he wants to be sure that refugees undergo what he's called extreme vetting.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: To keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America. We don't want them here.

ROSE: Trump's action also slashes the total number of refugees the U.S. will accept this year by more than half, from 110,000 to 50,000. It was hailed by some as a much needed correction.

DAVID RAY: Refugee admissions have been way out of line with public sentiment.

ROSE: David Ray is with FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. It's a nonprofit in Washington, which some human rights groups say is anti-Muslim. Ray says governors across the country signed a letter after the 2015 terror attacks in Paris calling for a halt to immigration from Syria.

RAY: The country is in real need of a temporary time out in refugee admissions. This is a prudent national security move that will save American lives.

ROSE: But resettlement agencies say the vetting process for all refugees is already intensive, and it's especially rigorous for Syrians. Chris George is the director of Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services in Connecticut.

CHRIS GEORGE: It's a very tough process. It is the toughest screening process for any refugee in the world, and it's also the hardest way for anyone to get into this country. And it seems to be working well.

ROSE: Georgia's group helped resettle Mohammed Shagleel in New Haven. When we talked on Friday, I asked Shagleel how often he talks to his mother.

Did you talk to her today?

SHAGLEEL: Every morning I talk with her.

ROSE: And what was that like?

SHAGLEEL: I didn't tell her about the new laws. I think she will be sad.

ROSE: When they talk today, Shagleel plans to tell his mother that he'll keep trying to bring her here no matter what. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.