SPOKANE, Wash. – The effects of the president’s executive order on immigration are being felt around the world, including here in Spokane. Local refugees worry about their families overseas, while organizations that help refugees wonder if they can even keep their doors open.
Ali lives a comfortable life here in the United States, but for most of his life that has not been the case.
“Every day. Every day there is some dangerous thing that may be coming,” Ali said.
Ali fled Iraq after years of persecution, in part because he worked for an American company. That persecution still keeps him fearful of showing his face on camera.
Ali was able to escape to the U.S. as a refugee 13 months ago with his family. He worked with World Relief to find resettlement here in Spokane. But, under President Donald Trump’s current travel ban, refugees like Ali won’t be receiving that kind of help.
“We will not be having any refugees come because of this,” said Johnna Nickoloff, development director with World Relief Spokane. “And because of that, we are federally funded and so the funding stream also stops for us.”
Without those federal funds, World Relief now wonders how long it can keep running. The organization says it will have to layoff staff and those layoffs could be significant.
“We will try to keep as many people on staff as possible to keep what we’re doing continuing and making sure we are helping refugees that just arrived,” Nickoloff said.
Nickoloff said the organization is now hoping to just last the next four months. Meanwhile, refugees are hoping their families living in those banned countries can survive the next four months as well.
Ali’s wife still has family living in Iraq. They worry by the end of these four months, it could be too late.
“My wife, she’s under very bad situation,” he said. “She’s worry every time, she’s crying every time. She can’t stop thinking about her family.”
Other Spokane refugees have been trying to get their family to the United States. Now, they must wait and hope for the best.
“We actually even had people in our office that they had family members that were sent to come this week and even had their plane tickets, and were not able to come because they were coming from countries that were banned,” said Nickoloff.
World Relief says it is working with refugees to help them understand what this travel ban means for them and their family.
Despite the restrictions, Ali says this doesn’t change his opinion of America and the opportunity this country provides.