AUSTIN, Texas, May 10, (Agencies): Somali refugee Mohamoud Saed was elated when he learned that his wife and eight children had completed the lengthy refugee application process that would allow them to join him in the US, reuniting the family for the first time in seven years. But the Saeds never made the trip to the Atlanta suburbs because their travel documents expired during the legal wrangling over President Donald Trump’s executive orders to limit the refugee program and ban travel from several countries, including Somalia.
They are now living in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, desperate for a permanent, peaceful home. The family’s case illustrates how Trump’s travel bans have caused the number of refugees coming into the US to plummet in the last two months, despite his executive orders largely being blocked in the courts. The number of refugees arriving in the US dipped to 2,070 in March, which was a six-year low except for a period in 2013 when the federal government was shut down.
The figure was slightly higher in April, 3,200, but it was still much lower than the months preceding Trump’s order. An executive order signed by Trump in January decreased the refugee limit from 110,000 to 50,000 this fiscal year, but the cap was not blocked in court until mid-March. That caused the State Department to tightly rein in monthly arrivals when the cap was in effect. “This program simply can’t be turned on and off like a faucet,” said Erol Kekic, executive director of the Immigration and Refugee Program for Church World Service, one of the world’s largest resettlement organizations. Many approved refugees like the Saeds had their travel documents expire during that time, forcing them to restart the whole process and leaving them in limbo.
The 56-year-old Saed, who was a doctor in Somalia before he fl ed the nation’s civil war, is anxiously awaiting their arrival while struggling with kidney issues that he hopes could be solved with a transplant from one of his family members. “You can’t imagine how I’m feeling, missing my family,” Saed said.
Conservatives praise the decrease but insist a total halt in admissions is necessary. Refugee groups say the drop has forced them to lay off employees while trapping thousands of people in war-torn nations, overflowing refugee camps and dangerous living conditions amid the world’s largest refugee crisis in modern history. At the same time, Republican-controlled legislatures have been doing their part to limit the fl ow of refugees into their states.
Tennessee recently followed other states in suing the federal government to ban refugees in its state, and more than a dozen states have withdrawn from the federal resettlement program. Texas recently became the largest state to withdraw from the program, and its Legislature is now moving to abolish the state’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. Both withdrawal from the program and abolishing the office are largely symbolic gestures, since non-profits are now tasked with coordinating refugee admissions. But state officials said they hope to put pressure on the federal government to keep its anti-resettlement fight.