(Washington, DC)—Last week, Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) sent a letter with a group of 18 senators to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of State and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), pushing agencies to answer questions about the detrimental effects that the President’s travel ban is having on the US refugee program, including ongoing interruptions, delays and the prevention of refugees from being reunited with their families in the United States.
In their letter to the federal agencies, the senators underscore how the President’s travel ban executive order is causing interruptions and delays for those fleeing war, violence, and famine and who are seeking shelter in the United States.
The senators wrote, “Refugees are already among the most securely-vetted of all travelers to the United States. The vetting process includes numerous screenings that can take approximately two years and refugees have no say in which country they will be resettled. We are concerned that the additional 90-day delay in this Order for the nationals specified, combined with cumbersome new data collection for all refugees, will create substantial logistical barriers for refugee applicants and put vulnerable families in danger.”
“We knew there would be terrible consequences from the President’s travel ban, which specifically targets refugees from Muslim-majority nations, and now we’re seeing those problems play out,” said Senator Shaheen. “The executive order is disrupting and stalling the resettlement process for refugees, who have fled unspeakable conditions. Immigrants built this country and continue to enrich our communities in New Hampshire and across the nation. This ban is an affront to our nation’s values and is having a destructive impact on the US refugee program, and must be addressed immediately by the administration.”
Specifically, the letter asks a number of questions regarding the travel ban’s impact on the Trump administration’s admission target of 45,000 refugees for 2018, the effect of the ban’s data collection requirements on the resettlement process for refugees (including the 11 named countries in the executive order), the status of Iraqi wartime partners and their families who currently rely on the United States Refugee Admission Program (USRAP) for their safety, and answers for refugees who are being prevented from reuniting with their families.
Senator Shaheen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has led efforts in the Senate to oppose the Trump administration’s attempts to roll back critical US refugee policy priorities. Earlier this year, she called on the Trump administration to continue implementation of the US refugee program in response to the President’s travel ban being allowed to take partial effect.
A signed copy of the letter is available here.