5 Things You May Have Missed — Why Thousands of Refugees Are In Limbo

By Rebecca Ma, Associate Campaigner, Amnesty International USA

With everything going on last week, you may have missed this: Tens of thousands of refugees already being processed to come to the United States are now in limbo, their lives at risk, thanks to the Trump administration’s latest move.

Last week, in a decision in the Muslim and refugee ban case, the Supreme Court announced the administration could limit the entry of refugees to those who have a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity” in the US. The White House then narrowly interpreted that term in ways that could have profound consequences. After July 6, many refugees won’t be able to come into the country.

The administration’s definition not only violates the Supreme Court’s order but would have a devastating impact on refugees. Here’s how:

1. Refugee assistance organizations — groups that work with the US government to resettle refugees — won’t necessarily qualify as having a “bona fide” relationship with a refugee. These refugee organizations have worked for months, and with the US government, to prepare for the arrival of refugees who completed all security screening and processing and to provide services for their resettlement.

Here’s how it works: Once a refugee has completed these processes, the organization provides a guarantee to the State Department called an “assurance” that it will provide services to that refugee when he or she arrives. The refugee is even identified by name in the “assurance.”

But under the administration’s interpretation, thousands of refugees who were “assured” and cleared to resettle in the U.S. may be banned and stranded in dangerous situations.

2. 26,000 refugees who have already been cleared to resettle in the US this year could be banned. Many refugees, including the thousands of Christian refugees from Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burma that resettle each year in the US, would be shut out due to this arbitrary interpretation.

3. Grandparents Need Not Apply. The Supreme Court’s decision makes an exception for people with a close family relationship in the US. But under the Trump administration’s interpretation, those qualifying as “close” are parents, spouses, children, adult sons and daughters, sons-in laws and daughters-in-law, and siblings. This excludes grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, and nieces. Long-term partners, such as individuals in countries where same-sex marriage is not permitted, also don’t qualify.

4. This Isn’t Normal. The US refugee program has long enjoyed bipartisan support. The presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush saw its peak years, the latter having admitted more than 100,000 refugees every year of his term. Now, the refugee program is under attack by the Trump administration.

5. And It Isn’t Right. Refugees leave their homes because they have no other choice, and many are fleeing war and terror. Those fleeing Syria, for example, are fleeing the Assad regime, the armed group calling itself Islamic State, and other armed groups. They are seeking safety, like all of us would if we were in their shoes. They deserve our compassion.

With the Fourth of July earlier this week, this is a time to celebrate the country’s best ideals and aspirations. One such aspiration of welcoming the world’s most vulnerable is etched in stone on the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.

Refugees are the world’s most vulnerable people who are fleeing horrific violence and just trying to rebuild their lives.

Amnesty International USA and our coalition partners in Refugee Council USA are urging members of Congress to press the White House to revise its guidance on the implementation of the refugee ban, and to recognize and regard as “bona fide” the relationships that refugees share with US resettlement agencies and those between extended family members.

Take action now and reach out to your member of Congress by calling 1–855–923–6687, texting AMNESTY to 21333 or signing our online petition.

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We've been fighting the bad guys since 1961 - you can join us! Official Amnesty International USA profile.