One of the most talked about policies from the first 100 days of the Trump Administration was the temporary ban on travel from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, sometimes referred to as the “Muslim Ban.” The ban also suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days so that the program could be vetted to the Trump Administration’s standards. Although President Trump passed a new executive order March 6, which removed Iraq from the ban, the Refugee Admissions program will still be suspended for 120 days. Once the program is reinstated, it will only accept 50,000 refugees. According to the Atlantic, the U.S. accepted between 56,000 to 85,000 refugees each year in the years of Obama’s administration. The last time accepted refugees dipped below 50,000 was in 2007, when according to the Federal Refugee Processing Center, only 48,282 refugees were accepted.
Trump’s travel ban has brought attention to the screening processes of refugee resettlement. However, many people forget about what happens after refugees arrive in the United States. Refugees are intensely screened by multiple agencies, including the State Department, FBI, Homeland Security and even the United Nations. After the screening process, refugees are given to the Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration, a branch of the State Department, which works with nine voluntary agencies across the nation to help resettle the refugees.
Many of the voluntary agencies have offices or agencies within North Carolina, making N.C. a hub for refugee resettlement. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, N.C. had the seventh largest number of refugees resettled in the fiscal year 2016. One of the voluntary resettlement agencies is Church World Service (CWS), which has offices in both Greensboro and Durham, where they have helped to settle 467 Syrian refugees. CWS provides basic needs of resettled refugees by providing with them with affordable housing, household supplies, access to a phone and healthcare as well as food and clothing. Job preparation and placement is also provided by CWS in order to help refugees get on their feet and secure positions in the community for the long run.
Another of the nine agencies, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, has a resettlement partner in Charlotte, the Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency. CRRA picks up refugees from airports, obtains them apartments and provides food. It also registers children for school and encourage job searches. The US Committee for Refugees also has an agency in Raleigh providing similar services. World Relief Corporation also helps refugees resettle in High Point in Durham. Episcopal Migration Ministries is affiliated with Interfaith Refugee Ministry in Wilmington and New Bern.
Even at East Chapel Hill, students are working to help resettled refugees grow comfortable in their new homes. Refugee Outreach club led by Sienna Zuco and Wyatt Foster along with Bridge Builders Cultural Exchange club provide opportunities for students to help refugees looking to make the Triangle their home.
“They [Bridge Builders] pair volunteers with refugee families and they help them with a lot of things that are really hard if you’re unfamiliar with the area or the language” says Talia Pomp, club president. The club focuses on helping high school students with refugee status in order to help them settle into the community. Other clubs at our school helping refugees in the area include the Refugee Outreach club lead by Sienna Zuco and Wyatt Foster.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s new policies towards refugees has started to restrict the services available to refugees in America as well as the offices that provide them.
“For my office, staff members have had their hours cut as well. The political climate in general has made it difficult for clients to get jobs, as many employers are hesitant to hire those from outside the U.S.” said Elizabeth Lyons, a volunteer for the Interfaith Refugee Ministry in Wilmington.
With Trump working towards a more restrictive refugee policy, states like North Carolina with large refugee populations, will be thrust into the spotlight on issues like refugee resettlement.
Photo Courtesy of Kaitlin McKeown