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WA Refugee Families Kept Apart Under Immigration Order

Advocates for refugees worry that a halt to resettlement programs in the United States will put some refugees in danger. (Global Panorama/Flickr)
Advocates for refugees worry that a halt to resettlement programs in the United States will put some refugees in danger. (Global Panorama/Flickr)
January 31, 2017

SPOKANE, Wash. – Families resettled in eastern Washington are being kept apart because of an executive order issued by President Trump at the end of last week. The order stops resettlement for refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 120 days.

World Relief Spokane runs a resettlement program in eastern Washington, providing employment services, housing assistance and other social services. Its development director, Johnna Nickoloff, says with the new order banning immigration from war-torn countries, resettled families in Washington will be separated.

"We have many families that were expecting their relatives to arrive this coming week, so of course they were very excited about that happening, and now they are being told that their families will not be coming," she said. "And so, of course, that is heartbreaking, especially since most of their families are in danger where they are."

World Relief Spokane also fears people who were approved in the vetting process, which can take two years or more, but are not in the United States yet will have to go through the entire vetting process again, putting many of them in prolonged danger.

Nickoloff notes vetting has been strict: Less than one-percent of refugees who apply move forward in the process.

Nickoloff says her office relies on federal funds to help resettle refugees, meaning that over the next few months they will have to depend on the help of volunteers, church services and other humanitarian organizations to help fill in the gaps.

"We will try to keep our office open so we can be advocates and help the refugees that are already here and prepare for the borders to open again to refugees so we can continue to resettle people who just want to start a new life here and live the American dream just like we do," she explained. "But, in the meantime, it's going to be a long four months."

While the executive order was promoted as a way to prevent terrorists from entering the country, a study by the Cato Institute found the likelihood of an American being killed by a terrorist entering the country as a refugee to be one in 3.64 billion per year.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA