Jacksonville, FL — For refugees who were poised to resettle in Jacksonville, the future is on hold.
After President Trump issued his order on refugee vetting and immigration, local resettlement organizations saw the immediate halt of some two dozen local cases.
“Families who have been vetted- have gone through years of processing- and they’re now essentially being told ‘you can’t come here’,” says World Relief Jacksonville Church Mobilizer Travis Trice.
World Relief Jacksonville had three cases they were preparing to resettle in the area at the time of the order.
“We had apartments set up, we had volunteers ready to help them, we had staff ready to serve them, and obviously they’re not able to come,” he says.
In the days just before the executive order came down, World Relief Jacksonville resettled two separate Afghani men, who were on special interest visas- meaning they had served alongside US troops helping in some manner, like translations. For Trice, it’s especially tragic that these kinds of cases are also now on hold.
“Our US military has basically said ‘if you help us, we’re going to help you’, and they’re quite literally risked their lives for our troops. And now, we can’t keep our promise to them by giving them a new life here in the United States,” he says.
In addition to the uncertainty they’re now facing for future relocations, Trice says they’re facing very real questions now about funding. He says they’re funding is based on resettlements, so they’re looking at hard decisions- like staff layoffs- to make up for the cuts they’ll be seeing. Not only could that impact the services they’re able to provide for refugees in the area, but it could lead to a lag if they’re ultimately able to set up more services again in the future.
Trice says they’re in favor of secure vetting for refugees, and knows that there have been restrictions in the past- like post 9/11, but he doesn’t believe that keeping America safe has to mean this kind of action.
“The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive- you can have safety and security, but also have room to welcome a newcomer,” he says.
According to our partner Action News Jax, Lutheran Social Services has 22 cases on hold right now, including 16 cases from Syria, four Burmese families, and two Iranian cases. Catholic Charities has two cases- a person from Ukraine and a family of seven from Congo- who are still listed as arriving, but it’s unclear if that will happen because of the order.
Trice says they’re working now to engage with the Trump administration, and are encouraging anyone who wants to help to reach out to their lawmakers as well. You can also learn more about World Relief Jacksonville through their website.
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