120 days later… still no end in sight for the refugee travel ban

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120 days later… still no end in sight for the refugee travel ban

Yesterday was Day 121. After 4 very long months of waiting, yesterday was the day the ban on refugee travel was supposed to end. But it hasn’t. Not really.

On Tuesday (Day 120), the Administration issued yet another executive order announcing severe restrictions on the refugee program—restrictions so severe that no refugees will be able to travel any time soon. These were the highlights:

    -No refugees from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen will be permitted to travel for the next 90 days.

    -The Visa 93 program —a program that allows refugees to reunite with close family members who were separated from them when they were fleeing conflict—has been “suspended indefinitely.”

    -No refugees—regardless of country of origin-- will be permitted to travel until they can supply phone numbers and email addresses for everyone on their family tree and addresses for every place they have lived for longer than 30 days over the last 10 years.

To sum up, this means another 3 months of limbo for citizens of 11 countries, indefinite separation for refugee families and possibly months more of waiting for everyone else as they try to track down information that may have been lost long ago. In all these cases, thousands of men, women and children-- who have already waited for decades, who have already gone through round after round of security checks and medical screenings and vetting, who have already been told that they were clear to travel—are being sent back to the drawing board. Back to danger. They have safe homes and loving new communities ready for them, communities like ours, but they are being told to go back to their tents and track down their uncles’ cell phone numbers. That’s really hard for us.

Right now, we have 3 co-sponsor teams who have been matched with families who were supposed to be cleared to travel. Now, no one knows if or when they’ll be able to come. The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has told us it could be months—or even the better part of a year—before people are able to begin booking travel again. That’s crushing news for these teams who have already been waiting expectantly for months.

And the hardest part of all of this is that nobody wins. All of this heartache is being inflicted to solve a non-existent problem. Thanks to the vetting process that was already in place, the United States has managed to admit refugees for decades without a single one perpetrating an act of terror. This process already required clearance from the National Counterterrorism Center, the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security. It’s hard for us to understand how after all that, we still need to block Iraqi service members who bravely fought alongside our troops or keep husbands from their wives and children from their parents or make displaced, war-scarred people track down phone numbers and address they may not find.

As far as we can see, none of those things makes us any safer. It just keeps our community from being able to welcome and serve families in desperate need of refuge.

We can’t sit quietly and just let this happen.

Humbly, we ask two things of our community:

1. Call Congressman Womack and voice your concern for these new restrictions and let him know Northwest Arkansas continues to support refugee resettlement. (Washington D.C. Phone: (202) 225-4301)

2. Show your support for refugee resettlement and stand in solidarity with refugees by giving $5...a symbol of an open hand ready to help them to safety.