A federal appeals court in Hawaii has issued a temporary stay of President Trump's revised travel ban, which affects the majority-muslim nations of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
It seeks to evaluate the screening process associated with the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and how visas are issued. The Columbus Council on World Affairs and the Columbus Metropolitan Club recently held a forum on how central Ohio groups serving refugees are dealing with the order. Mike Foley reports.
Described as a temporary pause, President Trump’s revised travel ban would last for 120 days. While it does not apply to immigrants already in the U.S., it’s impacting individuals in the middle of the process and the groups that provide them with assistance. Angie Plummer heads the Columbus –based Community Refugee and Immigrant Services or CRIS.
“What that means is that because 35,000 refugees have already come nationwide this year, there are only 15,000 more who will be allowed for the federal fiscal year. Our office has already received 430 people so far this fiscal year, and plans are made at the beginning of the year, you have staffing that you carefully built with language capacity to help the people who are coming. So that means we will have no income for those four months that this pause is into effect, and this counts that on day 121 the machinery will be operating while we already know that Homeland Security is not doing any interviews. So we have many people that were approved to come that were just waiting for travel who are not allowed to come, their medical exams will expire, their security clearances will expire, and it’s a complicated, very narrow window in which they can depart.”
Plummer’s group helps resettle refugees directly from overseas, meeting people at the airport, linking them to housing and getting their children in schools. CRIS also assists refugees with finding employment, learning English, as well as a host of social services and parenting programs. Plummer sees the executive order as a step back from the long-standing tradition of welcoming refugees at a time when there are more vulnerable people around the world than ever before. Imran Malik agrees. He’s the executive president of the NOOR Islamic Center, which serves about 6,000 members in central Ohio comprising 40 different ethnicities.
“We have had families who are half refugee immigrants, and half of them are still in other parts of the world living in refugee camps. If a critical, emergency situation occurs where a mother who is here with one of her children and another child is in a refugee camp, there’s no certainty that if she leaves the country she’ll be allowed to come back, and there’s not even a possibility that she would be guaranteed to reunite with that child who is living in a refugee camp in another part of the world. Our city has taken a great stand. We want to continue as a sanctuary city. Would that possibly result in cutting off the federal funding for all the immigration programs, what would that impact be and how we will be able to cater to those vulnerable in our community is a big question mark.”
Malik says Columbus still has the second highest Somali population in the country. NOOR is one of the largest Islamic centers in Ohio offering outreach and education, including a weekend schools that serves about 900 students. Kenny Lee is principal of Columbus North International School, a public school that focuses on languages and global learning. Lee says students are becoming more civically-engaged.
“More students are asking - what’s an executive order, what is the power of the executive branch and the checks and balance system and the separation of powers, and they are doing research and they are learning. We’ve had conversations about news sources and where’s the news coming from, so from an education standpoint it’s been very powerful. We do have a lot of refugee students, and so these students are coming over at 16 or 17 years old with limited English to maybe no English. If we took anyone of us (English proficient) and put us in a country that we did not know the language and said we want you to graduate in three years, you have to earn 22 credits and pass 7 proficiency tests in that language – could we do it in 3 years?”
Lee says he’s trying to level the playing field next year by offering dual language classes, where teaching and testing would be conducted half the time in English and the other half in the student’s native language. For now though, Lee and the groups NOOR and CRIS are hoping to foster more engagement and dialogue on immigration.