Trump signs new executive order on refugees, excludes Iraq from ban

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – President Donald Trump’s new executive order temporarily banning refugees from certain majority-Muslim countries, signed March 6, now excludes Iraq from the ban.
Iraq had been one of seven nations in the original order, issued Jan. 27 but the implementation of which was blocked in the courts. The new order will not take effect until March 16.
Citizens of four of the countries still part of the ban – Iran, Libya, Somalia and Syria – will be subject to a 90-day suspension of visa processing. This information was given to Congress the week prior to the new executive order. The other two countries that remain part of the ban are Sudan and Yemen.
Lawful permanent residents – green card holders – are excluded from any travel ban.
While the revised executive order is intended to survive judicial scrutiny, those opposed to it have declared plans to mobilize their constituencies to block it. Church World Service and the National Council of Churches announced March 2, that they will unveil a new grass-roots ecumenical initiative in support of refugees.
Catholic immigration advocates were on tenterhooks waiting for the revised executive order, the issuance of which had been long promised but slow in coming.
Bill O’Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy at Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international aid agency, told Catholic News Service that he had seen communications from “senior White House officials” that would retain the ban, but indicated the indefinite ban on Syrians would be lifted.
Religious preferences found in the would be original order would be erased, but green-card holders would be exempt from the ban. O’Keefe said. The halt of refugee admissions to “determine additional security vetting procedures” would stay in place, he added, and the number of refugee admissions would be cut for the 2017 fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30, from 110,000 to 50,000; an estimated 35,000 have already been admitted since October, according to O’Keefe.
“Some will argue that simply sectioning out the seven Muslim-majority countries is a form of religious discrimination,” O’Keefe said. “What is clear here is that’s it’s within the prerogative of the president to lower the threshold of refugee admissions.”
One effect of the order would be to further strain the refugee-processing system at its biggest point. “The bulk of the system and the biggest part of it are those countries like Lebanon, Turkey, which are taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees,” O’Keefe said. “When we don’t do our part, it’s tough for us to tell other countries to make the sacrifices we need to play their part. The risk of the system collapsing and of governments that are already strained not being willing to keep their doors open is very serious, and we’re very worried about that.”
In Syria, he added, “some people have been (refugees there) for five, six years. They’ve had the hope of resettlement in the United States as one of the things that keeps them going.”
Kim Pozniak, CRS’ communications director, spent a week in mid-February in Amman, Jordan, where untold thousands of refugees are living – two and three families at a time – in small apartments in the city.
“I’ve met with people that are worse off than they were three years ago (when she last visited), simply because they’ve started losing hope,” Pozniak told CNS. “One woman, for example, said they’re so bad off they’re considering moving back to Syria.” Pozniak said the woman’s sister, who still lives in Syria, told her “Look, even if it’s so bad that you have to eat dirt, don’t come back here.”
Even without a ban, the uncertainty can eat away at people, Pozniak said. “I talked with one 74-year-old woman who together with her son has been in the resettlement process in the United States. They had the interview with UN (High Commissioner for Refugees), the interview with the Embassy, had the iris scan taken, now they have no idea when they’ll be resettled. They’re never given an answer as to when, where, how, and that’s the really frustrating part – being in limbo and not knowing where you’re going to be next.”
A Pew Research Center poll released Feb. 27 found Catholics opposing the ban, 62 percent-36 percent. White Catholics were very narrowly in favor, 50 percent-49 percent, while Hispanic and other minority Catholics opposed the ban 81 percent-14 percent.
Members of black Protestant churches (81 percent) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (74 percent) also opposed the ban. Protestants overall supported the ban, 51 percent-46 percent, with 76 percent support from white evangelicals. The Pew survey interviewed 1,503 adults by phone Feb. 7-12.
(Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.)

Agency clarifies immigration information

By Elsa Baughman
JACKSON – A question. Can the national of a country who has been granted a non-immigrant visa, automatically enter the United States for a visit? No, said Merrilyn Onisko, community relations officer of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). She said the visa only allows the individual to apply for entry to the U.S.
This question and many more were answered at an information session sponsored by Catholic Charities Migrant Support Center and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Friday, Sept. 19, at Catholic Charities.

Merrilyn Onisko, a community relations officer for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, gave a spirited presentation on citizenship and immigration regulations at Catholic Charities on Friday, Sept. 19. (Photo by Elsa Baughman)

Merrilyn Onisko, a community relations officer for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, gave a spirited presentation on citizenship and immigration regulations at Catholic Charities on Friday, Sept. 19. (Photo by Elsa Baughman)

In an effort to keep religious, lay leaders and volunteers current with immigration issues, Catholic Charities Migrant Support Center offers this type of seminar every year so those who have immigrant parishioners can help them with their questions or to guide them in the right direction.
“Immigration 101, an overview of the Green Card, Naturalization process, the Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law (UPIL) and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),” was led by Onisko whose office is based in New Orleans.
Among those present for the first time this year were personnel from the Jackson Police Department who are trying to get more familiar with immigration issues so they can address problems or crimes against immigrants when they occur.
Onisko shared basic information on the above mentioned subjects and included other details such as how to check someone’s case status online and how to make an appointment with the USCIS.
She said sometimes people complain about the time it takes to process a case. To illustrate her answer, she noted each day the government processes seventy thousand green cards, nationalizes twenty-six hundred people and handles forty-thousand calls customer service calls.
The USCIS website has a link with information about how to avoid scams.  Onisko noted the site can help immigrants to avoid immigration services scams. The site advises to “… remember: Know the facts when it comes to immigration assistance, because the Wrong Help Can Hurt.”
She also mentioned many immigrants are charged for forms. “Never, never pay for a form. They are free and can be downloaded from our website,” she said.  The agency charges for processing the form but not for the form.
Also very helpful, she said, is a link in the website for InfoPass, a free service that lets people schedule an appointment with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Immigration Officer by using the Internet at any time of day or night.
For more information visit the USCIS website,