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Government

World Relief DuPage/Aurora voices concerns about refugee ban

Ban part of executive order signed by President Trump

WHEATON – In 2016, the Wheaton and Aurora offices of World Relief resettled about 650 refugees forced to flee their countries because of war, persecution or natural disaster.

Executive Director Susan Sperry is concerned their efforts to assist these families are being halted through President Donald Trump's executive order "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States." As part of the order, no new refugees can travel into the U.S. for 120 days while the U.S. government evaluates its security processes overseas.

"There are many stories we're hearing about refugees who have family members that were almost ready to come," Sperry said. "They had gone through the security screening process and had been approved, and now they are going to be indefinitely delayed. And there are family members who have relatives traveling overseas who are current green card holders in the U.S. who are worried about what may happen, and if their relatives will be able to re-enter the United States when they return."

An exemption has been granted for those refugees who are already in transit to the United States.

Sperry said the executive order was not necessary.

"What's disappointing about this order is that it suspends a refugee program that already has extremely robust security screening processes in place," she said. "The executive order talks a lot about the safety and security of the American people, and we believe that there already is a robust screening process that ensures the safety and security of the American people."

As part of the current screening processes, Sperry noted refugees are required to go through several interviews and a battery of security background checks.

"Our refugees are among the most highly vetted immigrants who enter the United States," she said.

World Relief DuPage/Aurora will host a refugee and immigration advocacy night at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 at The Compass Church, 520 E. Roosevelt Road, Wheaton. The executive order also stops the resettlement of Syrian refugees indefinitely and puts a cap on the total number of refugees to be resettled to the U.S. this year at 50,000.

World Relief DuPage/Aurora had begun resettling Syrian refugees in the last year, Sperry said.

"The families that we've resettled are families who have experienced some of the worst atrocities you can imagine and are families who have either been tortured or lost family members in the war or have some health concerns, really the most vulnerable people who have fled the Syrian conflict," she said. "Those who have come are very concerned about family members who they are now separated from."

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, also criticized the executive order as being "overly broad."

"I believe that the vetting within the refugee program is already extensive and thorough – it is currently the most difficult and lengthy process to get into the United States, typically taking 18 months or more for a vulnerable family to survive while they wait approval to enter our country," Hultgren said in a statement. "I expect the rigor of the vetting process to be confirmed during the 120-day review of our current visa policies regarding refugees. I also urge recommendations that will increase collaboration and the sharing of information between our international partners, federal law enforcement agencies and local communities."

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, has not commented about the executive order.

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