A new program launched in Charleston this year grinds to a stop following President Trump’s order late last week the suspends the entire refugee resettlement program in the US.
President Trump’s executive order includes a 90-day ban on all citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. It also suspends the federal refugee program for 120 days, even for those refugees who already received approval to resettle.
The News 2 I-Team was the first to report on a new refugee resettlement program Lutheran Services Carolinas launched in the Lowcountry this year. Through the organization, Charleston was on track to recieve 100 refugees between January and the end of September.
Refugees, including those already approved to come to Charleston, are now in limbo and will have to wait at least four months before being placed in the Lowcountry.
In a statement Monday from Lutheran Services Carolinas a spokesperson wrote in part:
“LSC is deeply concerned about the effect the current administration’s executive orders will have on its mission to provide refuge to people from across the world who have suffered persecution in their homelands.”
The additional months pile onto the two to three years it takes to vet refugees. The process includes several interviews, background and health checks, and even iris scanning through several Federal agencies.
“By definition, refugees are fleeing unspeakable violence and persecution. Despite popular perception, it is important to realize that refugees already undergo complex and rigorous vetting,” the statement continued.
It’s possible that case-by-case exceptions will be made. Most of the refugees coming to Charleston would be displaced from the Democratic Republic of Congo and living in refugee camps elsewhere in Africa.
During the 120-day period, security and medical clearances for previously travel-ready refugees may expire. That means the refugees may have to re-request clearances
The head of the U.N. refugee agency estimates that some 20,000 people could have been resettled in the United States during President Donald Trump’s 120-day suspension on admitting refugees.
The office of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi says he is “deeply worried by the uncertainty” faced by thousands of refugees in the process of being resettled in the U.S.
So far this year, four families have resettled in Charleston through Lutheran Services Carolinas. Three of them arrived from Congo; one family was from Iraq.
“Several Charleston-area churches and individuals are serving as co-sponsors, providing support and encouragement to LSC’s refugee clients. LSC’s goal is always to help refugees become independent as quickly as possible,” a spokesperson explained of the process.
Lutheran Services Carolinas served 627 refugees in 2016 from its North Carolina office in Raleigh and its South Carolina office in Columbia. Of those, 221 were newly resettled refugees in North Carolina and 239 were newly resettled refugees in South Carolina.
A complete halt of resettlement programs for such a length of time is unprecedented, according to LSC. After 9/11, the program was suspended for fewer than three months.