The Administration’s new executive order on refugees and visa holders from six predominantly Muslim countries, issued Monday, is a disappointing rehash of many of the same directives that had led to its being halted by the courts for a month.
The new order suspends the refugee resettlement program for 120 days after March 16, while government agencies review screening procedures. Refugees who have already been “formally scheduled for transit” by that date may still enter and the government may allow entry after that date on a case-by-case basis. Even after the resettlement program resumes (no sooner than July 15), the number of refugees for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 has been lowered from 110,000 to 50,000, meaning that no more than 10,000-12,000 more refugees could enter the U.S. before Oct. 1.
Further, all nationals of six Muslim-majority countries–Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen–except those already holding visas, may not enter the U.S. for at least 90 days after March 16, to allow for review and establishment of security standards. If any of the named countries fail to adhere to acceptable security standards, refugees from those countries will not be admitted until the standards are met. Iraq is now excluded. Visa and green-card holders from these six countries are exempt.
To reiterate our previous statement of January 27, this decision cuts off a safe haven for those fleeing war and violence, whose plight has been caused by those who mean us harm. This order deprives refugees of the opportunity to renew their lives in safety, and deprives our communities and our nation the opportunity to benefit from the hard work, ingenuity and determination that so many refugees have demonstrated time and again. Stopping the refugee resettlement program could even mean life or death for some of the 60,000 refugees who have already been vetted and are awaiting resettlement. Once their medical and security checks are completed, they only have a two-month window to travel. Refugees may be forced to start the entire screening process from scratch–delaying them by months or even years while their lives continue to be in danger. There is also little to no data to suggest that a suspension of the refugee program would make Americans any safer. Indeed, many national security experts believe it could make us less safe by bolstering the “us vs. them” thinking that helps ISIS and other terrorist groups to recruit.
Meanwhile, we have plenty of work to do right here in Missoula. On Wednesday, we present the third in our series of “Soft Landing Missoula Presents,” this time on Eritrea, the country from which seven of our families have had to flee. The forum starts at 6 p.m. in the UC Theater. Our English classes and Drivers Ed training are in full swing and we are engaging over 200 volunteers to work with families, teach our classes and help us with other projects. We continue to be invited around the city and state to present information and help answer questions about refugee resettlement, and are currently designing a training that will give participants the skills to speak to this and other sensitive topics in a thoughtful and kind way to help build bridges across the many divides. We have a couple of incredible film and photo projects that will be coming your way soon. The warmer weather is getting us excited to start our bike program back up with our community partners. And we’re talking about throwing a huge soccer tournament!
With the love and support of this extraordinary community, we will continue to support the IRC and most of all our new neighbors who have come here seeking safety and opportunity for their families. With the help of all of us, they will soon stand on their own, contribute to our diverse society, and truly have a place to call home.