President Donald Trump has signed two new executive orders that limit refugees from coming into the U.S. and implements “new vetting measures” on immigrants.
World Relief Jacksonville, one of the largest local agencies that resettles refugees, is speaking out, calling for a “swift end” to the proposed refugee ban.
Action News Jax spoke to a 26-year-old refugee from Afghanistan who arrived in Jacksonville four days ago.
“I’m very glad to be here. I feel safer every morning when I get up,” he said.
Action News Jax is not using his name for safety reasons but the man said he worked as a translator for U.S. troops, a job that made him a target.
“I was hiding myself everywhere. You know, I feel like my life was in danger,” he said.
Travis Trice, a church mobilizer with World Relief Jacksonville, said most refugee applications can take anywhere from 18 months to 32 years to be approved.
“A lot of people get declined for a lot of different reasons so if you can’t prove that you’re a refugee, you really don’t even have a chance,” said Trice.
World Relief does not vet refugees. Refugees are vetted by national security agencies, such as the National Counterterrorism Center or the FBI. Once the vetting is completed and a refugee is cleared, he will be referred to voluntary agencies, such as World Relief, for resettlement.
Trice said there’s now concern over President Trump’s plans to temporarily ban specific groups.
“What I wish is that groups like ours and other groups around the United States would have a chance to come to the table and maybe share our experience and be heard,” said Trice.
Trice admits the current system isn’t perfect but said it’s continuously being improved.
“While we are pro-refugee, we are also pro-security,” said Trice. “I think it’s a good system. Does it need work? Always. It’s always been improved on. The system we have now is not the same system we started with.”
According to Trice, in fiscal year 2016 Jacksonville received 466 refugees.
Trice said potentially excluding refugees from some of the world’s most war-torn countries could punish innocent people.
“Immigrants choose to migrate. Refugees are forced to migrate,” said Trice.
Trice said World Relief will continue to educate the public to eliminate misconceptions. That’s why the refugee we spoke with is sharing his story and in doing so, is hoping to build trust.