What Does the Executive Order Mean for Refugees?


Late January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order containing large-scale changes to the refugee program. First, if you are confused about what an executive order is, this CNN article may help you better understand the process.

What is in the executive order:

1) A four month pause in the refugee program: From our understanding, this means we will have no arrivals to the U.S. beginning as early as today through as late as the end of June. Refugees who were on arrival yesterday have already been detained and their status is being discussed. Refugees scheduled for arrival in the coming weeks have had their flights cancelled.
2) A cut in the refugee ceiling from the proposed 110,000 to 50,000 arrivals: Originally, President Obama had planned to accept 110,000 refugees this year, with many arriving from Syria. This new action will cut that number in half and lower it to numbers not seen since 2002. The U.S. has already welcomed over 35,000 refugees for 2017 (the fiscal year begins in October), leaving only 14,000 more refugees who would be able to arrive this year.
3) Bans on arrivals from Syria for the refugee program and Visa bans for Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen: Over the last two years, Syria has become an increasingly common country of origin for arrivals in the U.S. and in Georgia. The order has a 90-day visa ban on specific countries, with a possibility of expanding that ban. We will update everyone once we know more about further bans.

What we still need to clarify:

* Family reunification: Many of the refugees who are currently in the United States from Syria, Iran, and other “banned” countries are waiting to be reunited with family members who are still in danger in their home countries. We are currently unsure if those seeking reunification will also be banned from arrival after the pause is lifted.

* Will scheduled cases still arrive?: From what we can tell, cases already in the pipeline will be able to be resettled after the four month pause is lifted. Those who were previously scheduled for arrival will likely need to re-do their medical screenings, which could take additional weeks or months before they can be rescheduled for arrival. We are unsure if currently-approved Syrian cases will be able to be rescheduled in the future.

* Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs): SIVs arrive from Iraq and Afghanistan and are men and women who have previously served with our Armed Forces during the wars in the region. We are currently unsure if this program is also included with the bans on Iraqi arrivals. However, early reports state that some of those who have been detained are members of this program.

* We DO NOT expect any refugees currently in the country to face deportation. All refugees currently in the U.S. have arrived legally and were thoroughly vetted before arrival.

HOWEVER – many lawyers’ associations are strongly suggesting that those with visas and even greencards from affected countries do not travel outside the U.S. while we await clarification on this order.

Our statement:

Paedia Mixon, CEO of New American Pathways, has made the following public statement about the release of the executive order:

“We are very disappointed in our President’s executive order. The world is facing the worst refugee crisis in history. We have all seen the images of extreme human suffering as millions have fled with nothing but the hope of refuge somewhere safe and free from discrimination. As America, the strongest nation in the world, turns its back, we are eliminating that hope for a population that has few other options.

While we disagree with the executive order, we hope that any unfortunate pause is used to reaffirm America’s commitment to welcoming those fleeing persecution, yearning to be free. America was built on this very foundation of freedom, and we believe that discussion on this misunderstood issue can help all Americans support and feel proud once again of our welcoming stance.

Along with our partners and broad base of community supporters of many faiths and ethnicities, New American Pathways will continue to advocate for a robust refugee resettlement program that cares for the world’s most vulnerable populations without discrimination.”

What Do We Do Next?

Executive orders are difficult to fight against, as they are a unilateral move by one person. However, we are still working to share our story. You can help by:

  • Contacting President Trump and the White House. Refer to this earlier email from the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies on ways to contact them.
  • Help your new American friends, clients, and family members understand what this order means. This site has explanations in English and 11 other languages to help refugees understand how this may affect them.
  • Share your passion with your friends and family. President Trump believes he is doing what his supporters, and his country, most desire. Be sure your friends and family are also showing their support for #RefugeesWelcome.
  • Share your voice with us. We are gathering quotes to share with media and the public. We are especially looking for former refugees, faith leaders, and business leaders who want to show their support. Send your quotes for welcoming refugees to Stephanie Ali.
  • Join us at the Capitol! Our annual New Americans Celebration will be March 7. Learn more and RSVP here
  • Please consider making a donation. Any donation is helpful to these agencies at this time.

If you have any questions – or suggestions – be sure to reach out to Stephanie Jackson Ali at s.ali@newamericanpathways.org. Thank you for your continued support!