USA (MNN) — Given the revisions to the executive order by President Trump regarding refugees, Bethany Christian Services, a global adoption and child welfare agency had some thoughts to share, having provided critical services to refugees in Grand Rapids, Michigan for years.
(Refugees, image courtesy of Church World Service/Bethany Christian Services)
President Trump recently issued a revised Executive Order that replaces the previous Executive Order (issued on January 27, 2017) imposing a temporary ban on most refugees – limiting the number of refugees welcome to the United States and excluding from resettlement refugees coming from some of the most war-torn countries in the world. The revised order will take effect on March 16, 2017, but still imposes a temporary ban on refugees and limits the number of refugees welcome to the U.S. While Syrian refugees are no longer blocked indefinitely under the new Executive Order, the impact remains.
Bethany Christian Services remains committed to bringing and keeping families together, including refugee and immigrant families fleeing dangerous circumstances. Bethany remains deeply concerned by the revisions as they still take the hope of safety and a future from families and their children and thousands of refugees who are primarily women and children.
According to The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 51% of the world’s refugee population are children. Our Christian faith calls us to care for the widow, the orphan and those seeking refuge and our concern remains for the families and children impacted. Immigration reform should support and strengthen families, not put innocent lives in peril.
Our hope is that we can work with our government officials at all levels to keep our country safe while protecting children and keeping all families safe. Family preservation and reunification is at the core of our heart and our mission. For more information on Bethany’s refugee and immigrant services, please visit Bethany.org/refugees.
Bethany’s Dona Abbott works heavily with the refugee resettlement program. She details some of the key differences between the two executive orders. “The Syrian refugees are no longer on a permanent ban, and the Iraqis have been removed from the travel ban; the ban on all refugees entering the United States regardless of country of origin is in effect for 120 days.”
She also notes a shift in how many vetted refugees will be allowed to resettle in the United States: “Out of 63 million refugees and displaced people in this world, the United States is accepting about 50,000. It’s part of the original order, and remains in this order, which reduces it from 110,000 to 50,000 people.”
(Infographic courtesy Bethany Christian Services)
That’s where things get murky. These are people who are vulnerable, already victimized, and desperate for safety. Abbott explains, “They’re already vetted, so we’re really confused as to why they’re included with all of the travelers that come and go from the United States. When that group is vetted by five security agencies in the United States, it’s a two-year process.” With the travel ban going into effect tomorrow, “We have 47 refugees due to arrive before September 30th. All of them, except for one, have their security clearance expire, which means they have to start the two-year process all over again.”
To the argument that it’s not a permanent ban, but one for 120 days, she acknowledges, “120 days doesn’t seem like a lot. We’re feeling very safe in this country, usually well taken care of either by family, ourselves, or by other agencies that can provide the safety net. That just doesn’t exist for refugees.” There are many who are caught in a bureaucratic no-man’s land. Abbott says, “We’re waiting for a child who has some severe health needs because of being wounded during their escape. It’s very likely that he could pass away during this 120-day time frame, simply because his need for healthcare is so critical.”
To that end, what can be done? First, get informed. Study the issue, research it carefully. Then, contact your congressional representatives and let them know what you think about the issue, and ask questions.
This all happens through a biblical worldview, Abbott explains, because, “Our responsibility is to go back to what the Bible tells us our responsibility is: to the widow, to the orphan, to the prisoner, to the alien amongst us. Refugees represent all of those.”
Finally, look for ways to come alongside some of the resettling families. Many local churches are offering help or services to make that transition smoother for the refugees. A warm smile and a welcoming hand can do a lot toward opening opportunities in the future.