PROVIDENCE - Now that President Donald Trump’s travel ban has been lifted, at least temporarily, 13 refugees who were in limbo will be able to travel to Rhode Island to make their homes here.
Kathleen Cloutier, executive director of Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, a nonprofit that works with immigrants and refugees, said on Wednesday that the refugees include a family of three, family of six and four individuals.
She said some were affected by Trump’s ban, and were supposed to travel on Jan. 30, three days after the ban went into effect, and had to put their plans on hold.
The ban, now being debated by a federal appeals panel, was lifted by a federal judge on Feb. 4. It had suspended visa issuance in seven majority-Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — for 90 days to allow for the review of visa vetting rules. It also suspended the nation’s refugee resettlement program for 120 days and indefinitely blocked refugees from Syria from entering the country. The ban resulted in protests at airports around the country as immigrants and refugees were denied entry.
The refugees are expected to arrive anytime between now and Feb. 17, Cloutier said. She said some are from the countries affected by the ban – Iraq, Somalia and Syria.
Cloutier said Dorcas helps the refugees by setting them up with a furnished apartment stocked with food. The staff shows them how to use appliances. They also tell them where grocery stores, banks and buses are, to help familiarize the individuals with their new surroundings. They also help them with health care appointments, enrolling their children in school and with workforce preparation. She said Dorcas’ goal is to have adults working within six to eight months of their arrival.
For the year that ended Sept. 30, she said Dorcas resettled 269 refugees, and its partner organization, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, Catholic Social Services, resettled about 85.
Since Oct. 1, she said Dorcas has resettled approximately 115 refugees, including the 13 expected to arrive any time before Feb. 17. Cloutier said that does not include any numbers from the diocese.
In addition to the seven countries that were identified by Trump, Dorcas also has resettled people from the Democratic Republic of Congo, she said. Cloutier noted that Rhode Island has been identified as a “welcoming” community for Syrian refugees.
She said the first Syrian family arrived in Rhode Island last February. Since then, 135 Syrians have resettled in the Ocean State.
Looking ahead, Cloutier said she doesn’t expect many more refugees to be allowed entry this year in Rhode Island, maybe a dozen.
“We may have to slow down the refugee resettlement program in the near future,” Cloutier said.
She said she also is concerned about funding. Dorcas receives approximately $400,000 annually for refugee support, an amount that was steadily climbing as the numbers of refugees increased under the Obama administration.
She expects Dorcas’ immigration legal services will see increased activity as people will want advice regarding their status, however.
Meanwhile, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce reached out to its members on Tuesday with a confidential survey, asking for anonymous responses to questions about the travel ban.
On the question, “Despite the recent court ruling to suspend the measure, has the executive order to temporarily halt travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries impacted your business/organization?” Twenty-two percent said yes, while 78 percent said no. There were 96 responses; one member skipped the question.
Asked if they agreed with the executive order, 27 percent said they strongly agreed, 12 percent said they agreed, 10 percent disagreed, 49 percent strongly disagreed, and 1 percent was undecided. There were 97 responses.