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Refugees, advocates describe "generalized panic" in wake of executive order

Refugee children play in Warren, MI in 2015.
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Some of the people most directly affected by President Trump’s immigration order spoke about their hopes and fears Thursday.

Trump’s executive order has caused “generalized panic” among refugees and some immigrant communities. That’s according to the head of the state’s largest refugee resettlement agency.

Sean De Four is vice president of that agency, Samaritas, until recently an arm of Lutheran Social Services. De Four says the group is proceeding as if Trump’s order halting refugee re-settlement is temporary, but some of their clients don’t share that hope.

“Many families are separated, and waiting for their relatives to join them here in the United States. And they fear or assume that this ban is going to be permanent, that they won’t be able to join them,” De Four said.

The U.S. was supposed to accept 110,000 refugees from last September through September 2017.

But Trump’s executive order lowers that to 50,000. That’s after he presumably lifts the temporary ban on all refugees, and most visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries.

That’s left many newly-resettled refugees separated from family members, and uncertain if they’ll ever get to reunite here.

Qusay Al Jaboury and his wife recently came to metro Detroit from Iraq. Now they fear they could be deported, even though they went through an extensive vetting process before their arrival.

“We expected these orders from presidents of third world countries, not the United States,” Al Jaboury said through an interpreter.

But the Al Jabourys’ 23-year-old daughter, also cleared to come to the U.S., is now stranded indefinitely in Jordan. They say if she’s kept out permanently, they’ll probably return to the Middle East to be with her.

About a half-dozen refugees, recently resettled in southeast Michigan through Samaritas, shared similar fears of permanent separation and continued fears.

De Four says Samaritas was supposed to receive more than 60 Syrian and Iraqi refugees over the next two weeks. Those arrivals have all been canceled.

Trump’s executive order puts a temporary ban on all U.S.-bound refugees, and an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.

De Four says many in the refugee community are now assuming “that no people in the seven countries listed in the executive order will ever be allowed in the United State again.” Those countries include Syria and Iraq, as well as Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Iran.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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