Skip to main content

Utah refugee organizations already feeling impact of travel ban

By Jason Walker | Feb. 2, 2017

The effects of President Donald Trump’s executive order to halt the travel of refugees, and all immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, are already hitting multiple resettlement agencies in Utah.

The Utah branch of the International Rescue Committee, or IRC, saw 41 individuals stopped on their way to what would have been their new home in Utah. Catholic Community Services, or CCS, had about 30 people whose flights were canceled.

The future of these individuals, and how the resettlement programs will help them, is in question.

“Not only does it put the program on hold, it puts all these people’s lives on hold across the world,” said Natalie El-Deiry, a representative for the IRC. “In particular, for the seven countries, there’s been no specific comments in terms of when or how the screening for those countries would be increased or what that even looks like, which is very troubling.”

Even if the ban ends after the scheduled 90 days and new immigration policies are clear, resettlement organizations will have to face the long-term ramifications of halting immigration for four months.

“There’s a lot of chaos that this executive order has created,” said Aden Batar, the director of immigration and refugee resettlement for CCS.

When programs are halted, “and then you restart the process again,” Batar said, “a lot of effort will be wasted. All that effort costs millions of dollars in taxpayer money.”

Batar also said that if resettlement organizations aren’t able to help as many people as they have in the past, it could lower the amount of federal funding they receive. Lower funding, Batar said, would not only make it harder to get refugees into the United States, it would hurt the 60,000 refugees currently in Utah who are still trying to restart their lives.