It has been about a week since President Trump signed an executive order banning travel into the U.S. from seven majority-Muslim countries. Trump said the ban is an effort to stop terrorists from entering the country, even though refugees already go through an extensive screening process. Local groups who help resettle refugees in Texas say they still don’t know what this means for the families they were expecting this week.
Aaron Rippenkroeger with Refugee Services of Texas says his group had planned to receive about 100 refugees in five different cities this week, but since Trump’s order, only half of those families are expected to make it to the state.
It has been a heartbreaking situation, Rippenkroeger says, and for some folks it has been a dangerous one, too. Some refugees have serious health issues that were going to be addressed when they arrived.
“This is going to have a really painful impact in many different respects,” he says. “And there are some people who – I hate to say it – but may not make it through this delay or this stoppage.”
Rippenkroeger says the problematic rollout of Trump’s travel ban has put a lot of people in harm’s way. He says there were families who went through two years of rigorous security screening while living in refugee camps. They were finally at the finish line, and now these families might be completely out of luck.
“They may never get back into the pipeline,” he says. “There’s many stories of that happening. But we do hope and pray that arrivals will resume when this is lifted.”
Rippenkroeger says his group and others have already done a lot of work preparing for these families.
“We do things like picking them up at the airport,” says Briana Burns, a member of a volunteer welcome team with St. James Episcopal Church in Austin. “[We are] their first point of contact when they step foot on U.S. soil for the first time and [put] together their apartments.”
Burns says she worries about what will happen to those families who thought they’d be settling in Texas this week.
“What now?” she says. “I mean, that family is over there being told, ‘Sorry about your last three years of your life. But, you know, sorry you can’t come.’ And that’s heartbreaking.”
Burns was among dozens of protesters who showed up at Republican Congressman Michael McCaul’s office in Austin on Wednesday.
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She says she’s doing all she can, even though she doesn’t know what exactly will help at this point. In the meantime, both Burns and Rippenkroeger say they are focusing efforts on the families who are able to enter the country, as well as the refugees already settled here who are now worried about their future in the U.S.