CWS reports on effects of executive orders on immigration and refugees 

Aerial view of Za'atri refugee camp
Aerial view of Za'atri refugee camp
US Department of State (public domain)

Church of the Brethren Newsline
January 27, 2017

A leading member of the Church World Service staff has reported to Brethren Disaster Ministries about how President Trump’s executive order on refugees will affect the staffing and financing of CWS, as well as the lives of individual refugees. CWS also has issued a release outlining the consequences of the executive order on immigration, and asking for help to protect immigrants and asylum seekers.

Effects of executive order on immigration

After President Trump’s executive order on immigration announcing that the US government will force local police officers to serve as immigration enforcement officers, CWS issued a release noting this “would reverse years of intentional, community-based policing efforts that are vital to public safety in neighborhoods across the country.

“This decision jeopardizes the trust between immigrant communities and local police and does not make cities across the United States any safer.

The release denounced the building of a wall across the US southern border, detention of families and children who cross the border, and the turning away of “vulnerable asylum seekers, returning them to the violence and persecution they fled.”

Consquences of the executive order extend into local communities, the release said, and would “punish cities that allow police to focus on community priorities rather than target people based on their immigration status. When all individuals can report dangerous situations and seek protection from violence without the fear of being deported and separated from their families, safety increases for everyone. This decision would also cost taxpayers billions of dollars and fail to live up to our moral and legal obligations to protect those in need.”

CWS said the “walling off America is an affront to our nation's values of family unity, compassion, and welcome.” The agency is calling for those concerned to support immigrants to call the White House and their senators and representatives in Congress to support policies that limit local law enforcement cooperation with ICE, protect asylum seekers, and welcome immigrants.

Effects of executive order on refugees

Following today’s executive order, “additional cuts will certainly be needed” to the work of CWS to resettle refugees, reported Sarah Krause, senior director for Programs, Immigration and Refugee Program. These cuts in staffing will be on top of the layoff of more than 150 CWS staff in the US and Africa caused when a Continuing Resolution put in place during the Obama administration kept an unexpectedly low ceiling on the number of refugee resettlements in the US.

“Most impacted domestically will be our local affiliates. A four-month program suspension will have profound impact on their funding.” Until arrivals of refugees resume, CWS will have to seek funding to help sustain its local affiliate offices that do on-the-ground work to resettle refugees in communities across the country.

More importantly, the executive order will have had a direct effect on the lives of refugees who are in the process of coming to the US. “As you know, there are refugees in various stages of processing. Many have their flights booked at are awaiting travel. Some will be in transit when the order is signed. We are hopeful that there may be a brief 24-hour grace period, but this will not help those that have already given up their shelters and what little belongings they have. Nor will it help those that have already been transferred from the camps to a transit center for departure or those that are en route,” she reported.

“There is concern that the host governments will not take them back.”

Many refugees currently in the process of entering the US for resettlement are coming to join family members. The executive order will keep these families apart. Krause gave the example of a 5-year-old Somali boy who is currently in the care of community members in Kenya, awaiting an interview to finally join his mother in the US.

Krause noted the irony of such an executive order being signed on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “We said that never again would we allow something like this to happen. For the administration to sign an EO suspending refugee arrivals during the worst refugee crisis since World War II would be a tragedy.”

CWS is asking supporters to take action in a number of ways. The agency is requesting signatures on an online petition asking the government not to stop refugee resettlement, at http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/do-not-stop-refugee-resettle.fb49 . Supporters of refugee resettlement also are requested to call their elected officials, and to tweet messages to President Trump’s Twitter account and post comments on the White House Facebook page.

Find out more about Church World Service at www.cwsglobal.org .