Legal Battle Over Executive Order Leaves Syracuse Refugees in Limbo

Feb 8, 2017

Refugees listen to an Interfaith Works job counselor.

One of the agencies that helps re-settle refugees in Syracuse finds itself caught in limbo as the recent executive order temporarily halting the arrival of refugees is challenged in court.  A temporary injunction has allowed some refugees to complete their travel plans to Syracuse and elsewhere in the U.S., while others are left wondering if they will be able to travel and when.  President and Chief Executive Officer of Interfaith Works Beth Broadway expects some families to be able to travel during the injunction.

"We are expecting  to have a couple of families from the Ukraine make it through the pipeline next week; a family of two and a family of four," Broadway said.  "We do expect that potentially others can come before the injunction is lifted, or if the injunction continues, we will be able to get to get people who area already vetted and already had travel plans before the executive order went in effect.”      



Broadway says often one member of a refugee family will travel to the U.S. and get settled before the rest of their family follows.  Now refugees do not know if their family members will be able to join them in the united states.  interfaith works board vice president Linda Ervin says these refugees are telling the agency they are afraid.

"There's an element of fear going throughout the whole community of refugees right now," Ervin said.  There's also a lot of disappointment because there are folks waiting for their family to come, and now they can't come."

Young dancers mark World Refugee Day last June.

Beth Broadway recalls meeting recently with two older women from the Sudan.

"When we asked them, 'what are your biggest concerns?'  They say, 'when can I get my granddaughter out, when can I get my daughter here.'   People definitely were stopped.  Were were not able to unify some of the families that were on our list to come in February and March.  We just don't know how soon that  pipeline will open up again.”                                                      

When refugees arrive in Syracuse, Interfaith staff helps them adjust to their new lives in the U.S.  Broadway says some employees focus on picking up each refugee from the airport, helping them settle into a home, finding them a job and getting them an education.  Since fewer refugees are arriving in Syracuse, she says there is less work for these staffers.

“It affects our staffing because we have quite a number of staff dedicated specifically or partially to the resettlement part of the work.  So just trying to balance all of that out is a big challenge.”                                    

Broadway says they assist refugees for up to five years after they resettle in the U.S. in addition to hosting a broad range of community dialogue,  all of which Broadway says will continue.