Fighting the Trump Administration’s bans on travel and refugees from Muslim countries is getting more and more difficult, especially in Ohio, advocates say, as more bans are issued, others expire before they get through court proceedings, and even less information is given about the status of refugees’ cases. Finally, family unification for migrants from Muslim countries is no longer a sure thing.
Columbus Dispatch “It seems to me (the federal government is) getting away with this unconstitutional targeting of certain nationalities,” said Angie Plummer, executive director of Community Refugee and Immigration Services, a local nonprofit advocacy agency. “It is again a question of the heart and soul of the country. What do we stand for?”
One group that has surely been impacted are Somalis, advocates say. Central Ohio has the second-largest population of Somali immigrants and refugees in the country, behind Minneapolis, with about 55,000, according to the Somali Community Association of Ohio.
Many overseas relatives of Somalis here aren’t being allowed to enter the United States because of their nationality, including some who have never lived in Somalia, Plummer said.
Plummer has 50 active cases of people whose relatives are affected by President Donald Trump’s Oct. 24 executive order. The order suspended the follow-to-join program for refugees, which had allowed them to apply for their spouses and children to join them once they arrive in the United States.
That order also bars the entry of refugees from 11 countries, including Somalia, for at least 90 days. That 90-day “pause” can have effects that last much longer. Plummer said she knows this from experience: medical exams expire, forms need to be updated and the entire process is slowed.
Plummer said the national office told her not to expect anyone from the 11 banned countries for the entire federal fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2018.
Some local Somalis have been waiting years for their family members to join them. Now, the likelihood of them ever seeing their family members again seems slim. “All these people are swept up in the process who I’m certain are not a security risk,” Plummer said. (Oh, really, and you are certain of this because why?) “Meanwhile, families are still separated.”
Shukri Ahmed and Rukiya Warsame want desperately to bring their mothers here so they can meet their grandchildren and so Ahmed and Warsame can care for them (thanks to the generous American welfare system). Their mothers fled violence in Somalia and are now sick and alone, stuck in other countries. (Muslim countries? That’s where they belong)
“Anyone trying to get to America, no matter what kind of application, (the process) is going to be slowed down,” said Rachel Burch, with US Together, another central Ohio refugee resettlement and integration agency. Weeks ago, the agency was telling families their applications may take two to three years to get processed; now it could be up to five, she said.
Many programs are based off an “anchor” system, where refugees join family members wherever they relocated, she said. Families have five years to apply for the rest of their relatives once they arrive in the United States.
That means the ban could be affecting the total Muslim refugee population resettled in Columbus for the past five years.
Two other Columbus residents, Eblal Zakzok and Sumaya Hamad, are parties in a case filed in Maryland over Trump’s executive order on Sept. 24 that bans or puts stricter conditions on people from several countries trying to enter the United States.
Jennifer Nimer, a lawyer and executive director of the Columbus chapter of the designated terrorist gorup CAIR Council on American-Islamic Relations, is co-counsel in the Maryland lawsuit.