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Ban on New Refugees Affects Those Already Here

530 refugees, more than half from Syria, were resettled in Connecticut last year. (USAID)
530 refugees, more than half from Syria, were resettled in Connecticut last year. (USAID)
January 31, 2017

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – An organization that resettles refugees in Connecticut says President Trump's order halting the process has impacts beyond those detained on arrival. The executive order, signed late Friday, sparked a weekend of protests as immigrants and refugees with valid visas were detained at airports across the country. The order halts all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days and bans any refugees from Syria "until further notice."

Kelly Hebrank, development specialist for Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, or IRIS, says the order is having a devastating effect on some who already are here.

"We do have several who have been waiting for relatives to come, some of them have travel booked," she said. "Someone's brother was expected in two weeks, someone's uncle was expected, and so now they won't be traveling."

Last year IRIS resettled 530 refugees in Connecticut, twice as many as any other year, and more than half were from Syria.

A four-month hold on allowing refugees to come will mean even longer delays down the line. Hebrank points out that the United States already has the toughest refugee vetting process in the world, taking 18 to 24 months to complete.

"And every stage of it has an expiration date, so if someone gets almost to the end and is about to complete it, if the first step expired then they go back to the beginning," she explained.

Since 2001, more than 800,000 refugees have resettled in the U.S., including almost 85,000 last year.

Hebrank says the refugees resettled in Connecticut have been welcomed into their new communities and are doing well.

"The kids make friends at school really easily," she added. "Adults take English class and get jobs. Refugee resettlement is a tough self-help program but every day we hear great stories about the successes our clients are having."

Several lawsuits challenging the legality of the executive order have been filed in federal courts around the country.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT