What Does the Executive Order Mean for Refugees?

What is in the Executive Order:

1) A four month pause in the refugee program: From our understanding, this means we will have no arrivals through at least the end of May. Many refugees who were scheduled to arrive on Friday, January 27, have already been detained and their status is being discussed. All additional refugees scheduled for arrival in the coming weeks have had their flights cancelled.

2) A cut in the refugee ceiling from the proposed 110,000 to 50,000 arrivals: Originally, President Obama had planned to accept 110,000 refugees this fiscal year, with many arriving from Syria. This new action will cut that number by more than half and lower it to numbers not seen since 2002. The U.S. has already welcomed over 30,000 refugees for 2017 (the fiscal year begins in October), leaving only 20,000 more refugees who would be able to arrive this year between June 1 and September 30.

3) Bans on arrivals from Syria for the refugee program: Syrians are barred from the refugee program until the President decides the Refugee Admission Program “aligns with the national interest.” Waivers may be granted for persons who can show that they are members of “persecuted religious minorities”. We will update everyone once we know more about further bans.

4) Visa bans for Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen: This does not affect refugees. The order bans visas for nationals from these countries for 90 days, although the ban may be extended.

What still needs clarification:

* Family reunification: Many of the refugees who are currently in the United States from Syria, Iran, and other “banned” countries are waiting to be reunited with family members who are still in danger in their home countries. We are currently unsure if those seeking reunification will also be banned from arrival after the pause is lifted.

* What about persons scheduled for arrival?: From what we can tell, persons already in the pipeline will be able to be resettled after the four month pause is lifted. Those who were previously scheduled for arrival will likely need to re-do their medical screenings, which could take additional weeks or months before they can be rescheduled for arrival. We are unsure if currently-approved Syrian cases will be able to be rescheduled in the future.

* Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs): SIV holders from Iraq and Afghanistan are men and women who have previously served with our Armed Forces during the wars in the region. We are currently unsure if this program is also included with the bans on Iraqi arrivals. However, early reports state that some of those who have been detained are members of this program.

* What about deportation? We DO NOT expect any refugees currently in the country to face deportation. All refugees currently in the U.S. have arrived legally and were thoroughly vetted before arrival. HOWEVER – many lawyers’ associations are strongly suggesting that those with visas and even greencards from affected countries do not travel outside the U.S. while we await clarification on this order.

For more details, please download the American Immigration Council’s summary and analysis (PDF) of the Executive Order. Because there are a number of unanswered questions, stay tuned for new developments.

Soft Landing Missoula’s Statement:

On Friday, January 27, we issued this statement regarding the executive order.

What You Can Do:

  • Contact President Trump and the White House. Click on Four Easy Steps to Show Support for Refugees from the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies and take action now.
  • Help your new American friends, clients, and family members understand what this order means. Refugee Center Online has explanations in English and 11 other languages to help refugees understand how this may affect them.
  • Share your passion with your friends and family. President Trump believes he is doing what his supporters, and his country, most desire. Be sure your friends and family are also showing their support for #RefugeesWelcome.
  • Come to Soft Landing Missoula and send postcards to Senators Tester and Daines. We have post cards available in our office at 939 Stephens Ave Suite C for you to fill out for the Senators. Please write to show your support of refugees and resettlement in our country and our city. Senator Tester did issue this statement so please add a thank you on his note as well. Stop by anytime Monday-Thursday 9:30-3 and Friday 10-12. Feel free to take a couple of postcards to your friends and family!
  • Call our State Elected officials and let them know you support refugees in the great State of Montana.
        •    Rep. Zinke – (202) 225-3211; Local (406) 540-4370.
        •    Sen. Tester – (202) 224-2644; Local (406) 728-3003.
        •    Sen. Daines – (202) 224-2651; Local (406) 549-8198

*Much of this text in this post and inspiration for action was adapted from New American Pathways.

Call to Action! SB 97

Currently SB 97 is being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. This bill is aimed at banning “Foreign Law” and is widely known to be specifically referring to “Shariah Law”. We already have this protection in the Constitution of the United States. This is a silly and useless bill that is not only a waste of money but casts one of the world’s great religions—diverse and complex and composed of many strains—as dangerous and murderous. It targets the small number of Muslims in our community by further marginalizing and portraying them as “separate”. We know this is not the case.

The events of the last 36 hours, when a presidential edict can target hundreds of millions of Muslims as potential terrorists, make it even more important to oppose this bill, useless as it is, because its passage will only serve to endorse this unfair and unwarranted targeting. The continuation of America’s pluralistic religious tradition depends on the ability to distinguish between punishing groups that support terror and blaming terrorist activities on a faith that represents roughly a quarter of the world’s population.

So, please write to members of the committee, even if they aren’t your representative, to urge them to vote NO on this bill.

Use the simple form on this page: Find a Montana Legislator.

Members of the committee are:

Sen. DIANE SANDS (D)–Vice Chair

We’re recommitting to our mission

In light of the action taken Friday by President Trump, Soft Landing Missoula is recommitting to our vision—to help Missoula be a welcoming, supportive and informed community that can assist refugees to integrate and thrive.

We strongly disagree with the President’s executive order cutting off the flow of properly screened refugees to the United States. Among the provisions: All refugee admissions are suspended for at least 120 days and until it’s determined whether more security measures are needed. Syrian refugees are barred until the President decides the program “aligns with the national interest.” Total admissions for FY 2017 are capped at 50,000 (of which, 31,000 have already come in). All seeking visas will be subject to “extreme vetting,” or ideological testing. Religious minorities in their home countries who are being persecuted (mostly Christian) will get expedited visas.

This decision cuts off a safe haven for those fleeing war and violence, whose plight has been caused by those who mean us harm. The president’s orders deprive them of the opportunity to renew their lives in safety, and deprive 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. And preferring refugees on the basis of their religion violates our constitutional principles that the government may neither favor nor discriminate against particular religions.

Welcoming refugees is about kindness, compassion and generosity. Many now in our community have had the special and amazing privilege of helping new refugee families experience safety and freedom.  We have witnessed kids climb into a new soft bed that is just for them, the wonder of sharing song and dance with other cultures, the squeal of joy that comes from the gift of something as simple as a muffin tin, and the relief and pride on parents’ faces as they watch their children go safely off to their new school. These are moments that can’t be banned by any executive order.

We are busy teaching and mentoring the 50-plus individuals who have arrived here and are beginning to make Missoula their home.  With our community’s help, refugees are learning English and computer skills and how to drive. They are being tutored in schools, learning how to get around the city, earning money, and engaging in our social fabric.

We will work just as hard and in cooperation with the IRC, the resettlement agency in Missoula, to resettle all refugees who are allowed to come here. And we know that this city and residents across the state are solidly behind us, from the hundreds of volunteers who help run our programs to the thousands of people who have expressed their support in writing and with their financial support.

We grow strong together. This week, we will begin to distribute the furniture and household possessions of a man who came here from the Middle East decades ago, became a solid member of this community and whose family, in gratitude to the blessings endowed on him by this country and this city, are donating these goods in his memory to refugees to help them in turn gain a foothold and prosper.

 Whether you belong to a faith or not, the ethical teachings of Ecclesiasticus (200 BCE) should resonate:

“My child, do not cheat the poor of their living, and do not keep needy eyes waiting.  Do not aggrieve the hungry, or anger one in need.  Do not add to the troubles of the desperate, or delay giving to the needy.  Do not reject a supplicant in distress, or turn your eyes away from the poor.”

The President’s executive order is an assault on a bedrock American principle: as a nation of immigrants, we are called to extend the hand of friendship to the oppressed, tend to the suffering caused by their plight, and weave them into a national fabric that has always grown stronger through diversity.  It is our heritage, and it is also the right thing to do. 

Soft Landing Missoula board of directors: Clem Work, Marja Unkuri-Chaudhry, Patrick Duffy, Alysha Janotta, David Scott and Peter McDonough; Executive Director Mary Poole and Program Director Molly Cottrell

Equip refugee families with your old technology

Have you upgraded to a better Wi-Fi router, smartphone, computer, TV, DVD player, or micro-SD card? If your old technology still works, these families could make good use of it to be connected, or to make use of English-learning resources. Make a difference by donating it today! 


  • Any working wireless router.
  • Smartphones: Any mobile carrier. Include charger if possible. Up to 5 years old. 
  • Computer: Desktop, notebook, or tablet. Include peripherals if possible. Up to 8 years old.
  • TV: Any flat-screen digital TV. (Did your new TV come with cables you don’t use? Include those, too.)
  • If possible, please include any peripheral items, too. e.g. Network or HDMI cables.

    While our tech volunteers will perform a factory reset/restore if possible to wipe any personal data, we also recommend that you do this to ensure for yourself that any confidential information has been removed.

Volunteer office squad

With just 1.5 paid staff here at Soft Landing, we have struggled to keep regular office hours since we opened our office and community center. When we have a meeting out of the office with one of our community partners, we’ve had to lock the doors and turn out the lights, which we hate to do! But we are slowly and surely building our capacity to keep regular hours with some outstanding office volunteers.

Ellie, Andi, and Barb are each taking a regular chunk of the week and committing to helping us keep the door open, not to mention helping the office run smoothly. We could not be more excited about these amazing ladies who we love having around the office.

Thank you!

If you’d like to join our amazing team of volunteers, please fill out our volunteer form!


School supplies needed

Soft Landing Missoula partners with Missoula County Public Schools to make sure each incoming refugee child has all of the school supplies they need to start their academic career off right. Thanks to a generous donation at the beginning of the school year, we’ve outfitted each new child with everything they need.

However, as more families are arriving, we are getting low on some important supplies.

We would love to collect new glue, pencils, pencil boxes, kid scissors and folders (in neutral or “boy” colors). If you are able to help, please drop them by the Soft Landing office during the week. Donations can be dropped off anytime the office is open, but on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. we will have someone to specifically receive donations. We’re located at 939 Stephens Avenue, Suite C

Thank you!

Thank you for the winter clothing

Thank you so much to everyone who visited us last week with winter clothing donations!

Two hours into the morning after the call went out, almost every wall of our office was piled high with ski pants, boots, coats, sweaters, gloves and hats! As fast as our volunteers could get things organized and on the shelves, more donations would pile in. Many families have since stopped by to get outfitted.

It has been so heartwarming this winter to hear about neighbors sledding together, kiddos learning about snowball fights, and even new friends getting out to learn how to ski. We all know how much better life is in Missoula when you can get outside in the winter, all of you have made that possible for these families! 

Your donations have also been essential for adults trying to get around town for appointments and work in this bitter cold. We keep telling our families that Missoula summers are beautiful and showing them pictures to prove it, but in the mean time, you are keeping hearts and bodies warm. 

Since our small space has been so sufficiently stocked, we are asking that people hold off on further donations for a little while with one exception: men’s hats and gloves. 

Thanks so so much!

Volunteer Spotlight: Hayley Wright and Grant Parker

Our Community Center is a busy place these days. We have English tutoring happening two mornings a week, and the very popular Driver’s Education classes going on every Friday. Donations are dropped off by our generous community on a daily basis and teams of people are gearing up to welcome each new family as they arrive. None of this would be possible without our amazing volunteers and we are so thankful!

This month we’d like to spotlight Hayley Wright and Grant Parker, who have taken the lead on our English tutoring program that is offered in our Community Center. They have been patient and flexible as we learn how to start a brand new program. They have developed curriculum and offered leadership in each class that is invaluable. We are so happy that they are giving their time and energy to this important endeavor and we want to say thank you!

Winter Clothes Still Needed: Especially school-aged children sizes

We are thrilled to be welcoming many new families this winter to our cold and snowy town.

Our arriving families are often not accustomed to such cold temperatures, so we are making an effort to load them up on the best winter gear we can find. We are in need of new or gently used winter items. Please bring items to our office at 939 Stephens Avenue. We will have someone to accept items on Wednesdays from 9-11 a.m., or you can drop them off any time the office is open.

We are really in need of the following: Coats, boots, mittens, gloves, hats, scarves, thick socks, long underwear and snow pants/suits. All sizes are welcome, but sizes for school-aged children are the most needed.

Thank you!

Women’s March on Montana

SLM will be participating in The Women’s March on Montana on Saturday January 21st.  Read more below and consider joining us!

The Women’s March on Montana is guided by basic principles of human rights with a value on human dignity. We are committed to the following:

  • Women’s rights are human rights, regardless of a woman’s race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, gender expression, economic status, age, or disability.
  • We also believe in practicing empathy with the intent to learn about the intersecting identities of each other. We will suspend our first judgment and do our best to lead without ego.

There will be a march and rally on January 21, 2017, from 12:00 p.m. to 3 p.m. Buses and cars can park at the mall parking lot. We will gather at 11:30 and begin the march at 12:00 p.m. We will meet on 8th Avenue between Roberts and Sanders. The march will take place on sidewalks and roads, and is approximately 0.8 miles long.

Please see the official flier for more information or visit the Women’s March on Montana facebook page. If you are in need of a ride to attend the march in Helena, visit Group Carpool: Helena March to coordinate with other like minded individuals so your voice can be heard!