Utah colleges and resettlement programs in limbo as Trump puts squeeze on refugees and immigrants

President’s cuts to refugee entrants and beefed up vetting of immigrants tells newcomers they are not welcome, University of Utah official says.<br>

Fewer immigrants, fewer refugees. President Donald Trump’s policies continue to mirror campaign promises to pull back from decades of easing restrictions on newcomers in the face of a global crisis.

Trump’s latest travel ban, along with a policy to significantly reduce the number of refugees allowed to enter this country, leaves resettlement organizations, universities, businesses travelers and others on shaky ground.

From the viewpoint of resettlement organizations, such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Catholic Community Services (CCS), the administration’s new limit of 45,000 refugees per year is a significant setback that reverses years of humanitarian policies.

That is down from the Obama administration’s limit of 110,000. During the current federal fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, only about 75,000 refugees were admitted.

Taken together, the travel ban and refugee limit “really hurts,” said Aden Batar, director of immigration and refugee resettlement for CCS in Salt Lake City.

We thought we had put the travel ban behind us,” he said. “The new travel ban really impacts the work we do.”

And reducing entries has been a blow to refugees living in harsh and dangerous conditions abroad, Batar said. Utah expected to resettle about 1,200 refugees this year. Instead, only 800 arrived.

Trump is ignoring the economic impact of refugees who create an estimated $69 billion per year, Batar said, adding: “They are only looking at the costs.”

A reduction to 45,000 would leave refugees around the world in limbo as the crisis of displaced people reaches all time highs, according to the IRC.

An admissions level of at least 75,000 is a critical signal to the world that the United States remains a safe haven for those fleeing persecution, terror and ideologies antithetical to American democratic values,” an IRC statement said.

The new, more restrictive travel ban on eight countries announced Sunday would bar most residents from entry, including those who have a “bonafide family relationship” with people in this country — as outlined in Trump’s earlier restrictions.

Residents of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea could be permanently banned from the U.S. Further, government officials from Venezuela would be barred from entry. And Iraqi’s would undergo more thorough vetting.

The new directive removed Sudan, which was included on the original list.

The updated ban would better protect U.S. citizens against terrorists, according to the president.

Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say the latest directive is just another “Muslim ban,” much like Trump’s Jan. 27 dictum. Six of the countries listed on the new ban are Muslim majority nations. Very few people immigrate from Chad and virtually no one comes from North Korea.

They have thrown on a few new countries,” said John Mejia, legal director for ACLU of Utah, “but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a Muslim ban.”

The legal challenge to the original travel ban was brought by the national office of the ACLU, ACLU of Maryland, and the National Immigration Law Center on behalf of the International Refugee Assistance Project.

The Jan. 27 directive delayed people from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia from entering the U.S. for 90 days.

It also stopped the U.S. refugee resettlement programs for 120 days. Not least, it indefinitely suspended resettlement of refugees from Syria.

Federal courts have blocked Trump’s two previous travel bans. The March 6 order was drawn up by the Trump administration to overcome legal challenges of the original executive directive.

In June, the Supreme Court allowed that a limited version of the order could take effect Sept. 21 until justices could rule on the legal challenges. But following the announcement of the new ban, the high court put on hold oral arguments on the March 6 executive order.

Despite that, vetting by U.S. immigration officials since Jan. 27 has made entry into the U.S. more time-consuming for people from the original banned countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, according to critics.

The new immigration process for those countries is arduous and may dissuade many from coming to the U.S., said Shalamar Swain, director of International Student Services for the University of Utah.

The process has become extremely lengthy ... extremely opaque,” she said. “It’s hard and takes a long time and will impact the research at the university.”

Students, faculty and researchers remain unsettled, Swain explained.

As with the previous bans, there still is a question on the ultimate roll out and impacts,” she said.

But the immediate effect, Swain explained, is to make immigrants unwelcome.

They are here for positive reasons,” she said. “It is frustrating for them to be treated as doing something negative.”

University officials are warning students and faculty that they should consider not leaving the country until the travel ban makes its way through the courts. They further advise that relatives from the eight countries on the new list should expect difficulty traveling to the U.S.

The new ban is set to take effect Oct. 18.