Since 1917, Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSS/NCA) has aided the most vulnerable among us and since World War II, it has resettled thousands of displaced persons and refugees fleeing war and persecution. Current U.S. policy about refugee resettlement continues to change, complicating resettlement efforts and limiting refugee arrivals. The impact on our refugee brothers and sisters is clear: at a time when the world faces one of its largest refugee crises, thousands of refugees are being denied the opportunity for the freedom, safety, and prosperity that has defined generations of immigrants and new American citizens.
Every donor, congregation, community partner, staff member, and volunteer plays an integral role in restoring hope for the refugees we serve. Please stay informed and share the facts with others. Together, we will continue to welcome and embrace our neighbors. By doing so, we live our faith and demonstrate the love and compassion that has defined our call to service and our organization for 100 years.
Act in Solidarity with Refugees
Here's What We Know
Executive Order 1.0
- January 27, 2017: President Trump signs Executive Order "Executive Order Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States." The order bans all people from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the United States for at least 90 days and orders the secretary of Homeland Security to conduct a 30-day review to determine which countries do not provide "adequate information" for its citizens to be issued visas to enter the US. In addition, the order stopped Admission of all refugees for 4 months and banned Syrian refugees indefinitely.
- February 9, 2017: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the federal judge in Seattle’s restraining order against the executive order. that was determined earlier in February. Legal questions were brought against the order stating that the barred countries unjustifiably targeted Muslim nations and peoples.
Executive Order 2.0
- March 6, 2017: President Trump issues second Executive Order acting as a replacement to the first to limit potential challenges. The porder has roughly the same effect as the first. The new ban lays out a far more specific national security basis for the order, blocks the issuance only of new visas, and names just six of the seven countries included in the first executive order, omitting Iraq.
- March 15, 2017: Legal challenges brought by the state of Hawaii stall the ban hours before it is set to take affect.
- June 2017: Following a similar government appeal and oral arguments in the Hawaii case, a three-judge panel from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rules unanimously to keep the refugee and Muslim ban on hold, the second defeat for the March 6 executive order at the circuit court level.
The Supreme Court Weighs In
- June 26, 2017: The United States Supreme Court responds to the government’s emergency motion to overrule the lower courts’ injunctions against the March 6 revised executive order, as well as their appeal to hear the case during the fall term. The Court announces that it will hear arguments for the case in the fall, and also issues an order keeping in place much of the lower court rulings which prevent the administration from implementing the ban in full. As part of the order, however, the Supreme Court specifies that refugees and foreign nationals who have a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” are exempt from the ban.
- June 29, 2017: The Trump administration issues guidance on how it plans to implement the Supreme Court’s parameters. The administration's restrictive guidance includes narrow definitions of “bona fide relationships,” excluding grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. Importantly, the administration also announces that ties to resettlement agencies are not expected to be considered as a “bona fide" relationship, leaving thousands of already vetted and cleared refugees in limbo.
Challenging the Administrations Interpretation
- July 13, 2017: A day after the partial ban is in effect, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, in response to a second motion filed by the State of Hawaii and supported by HIAS and IRAP, halts the implementation of key portions of the executive order, citing HIAS’ arguments in several instances. As a result of the ruling, refugees with “assurances” from U.S.-based resettlement agencies are officially considered to have “bona fide” relationships with a U.S. entity, as defined by the Supreme Court. Additionally, the judge’s decision expands the administration's overly narrow interpretation of which close family ties would qualify to be exempted from the refugee ban, which had originally excluded even grandparents and grandchildren.
- September 7, 2017: A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court hears oral arguments in Seattle on whether grandparents, aunts, uncles and other close family members, as well as refugees with assurances from U.S.-based resettlement agencies, should be exempt from the Trump administration's Muslim and refugee ban. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issues a ruling affirming that grandparents, aunts, uncles and other close family members, as well as refugees with assurances from U.S.-based resettlement agencies, are exempt from the Trump administration's Muslim and refugee ban.
- September 11, 2017: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy temporarily grants the Trump administration's appeal to limit the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that refugees with assurances from U.S.-based refugee resettlement agencies would be exempt from the ban according to the Supreme Court order’s definition of “bona fide relationships” with a U.S. entity. The Supreme Court rules that refugees with assurances from U.S.-based refugee resettlement agencies are not exempt from the ban according to the Court's definition of a “bona fide relationship” with a U.S. entity.
Executive Order 3.0
- October 24, 2017: Following the expiration of the 120 ban on refugee resettlement, the Trump administration announces the resumption of the United States Refugee Admissions program with new “enhanced vetting capabilities.” Under the new restrictions, however, refugees from 11 countries and stateless Palestinians are banned for at least 90 more days. The 11 countries—Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen—accounted for nearly half of all refugee admissions in Fiscal Year 2017. Additionally, the procedures make it harder for all refugees to come to the United States, and prevent the spouses and children of refugees and asylees from following to join their loved ones.
[In addition, administration sets refugee resettlement goal to 45,000 individuals for fiscal year 2018. (Over a 50% decline from previous years.) U.S. refugee resettlement agencies advocated for 75,000 individuals.]
- December 23, 2017: U.S. District Judge James Robart issues a ruling largely blocking implementation of the Trump administration’s most recent refugee restrictions which suspended the admission of refugees from 11 countries, nine of which are predominantly Muslim, for a minimum of 90 days. The restrictions also stopped the follow-to-join process, which reunites family members with refugees already in the U.S. The ruling stops the implementation of the new refugee restrictions for refugees with bona fide relationships to the United States.
New Refugee Procedures
- January 2018: Department of Homeland Security releases a memorandum stating that refugees will undergo additional screening procedures before receiving approval in the United States. For instance, refugees are now required to list contact information for every address they have lived for the past 10 years. However, many of these details about the additional procedures and requirements are unknown or unclear. Refugee resettlement agencies across the country have seen a dramatic decline in refugee arrivals since this policy change, including Special Immigrant Visa Holders. Despite a goal of welcoming 45,000 through the end of September, estimates project that the U.S. will resettle only about 20,000 refugees--the lowest number since the refugee resettlement program began in the 1970's.
- April 10, 2018: the Administration lifted the ban against Chad, but the remaining seven countries were still subject to travel restrictions.
Supreme Court Case Trump v. Hawaii
June 26, 2018: In Trump v. Hawaii, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) held that President Trump's third travel ban is within his presidential authority. The travel ban was upheld 5-4 by SCOTUS, which rejected the argument that the policy was based on anti-Muslim bias. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in dissent, stated that the court had blindly endorsed "a discriminatory policy motivated by animosity toward" Muslims. Advocates argue that this decision clears the way for a policy that separates families and endorses religious discrimination.
Why the Slowdown in Refugee Arrivals?
Recent increased information and vetting requirements coupled with reduced USG processing capacity have resulted in a system overwhelmed with bureaucratic process and under-resourced to address these new systemic demands. Ultimately, DHS has massively expanded the size of the haystack within which it is searching for a needle, while reducing the capacity to screen. Examples include:
Reduced DHS capacity to interview refugees and process their applications.
- DHS has reduced its refugee corps by 100 officers, from 197 to less than half that number. The result is fewer DHS staff traveling overseas to conduct required in-person interviews. At the same time, DHS has reduced the duration of trips, and the number of countries from which they are processing refugees from 23 to 17. The result is an ever-growing backlog in certain regions.
- The administration has made it a priority to reduce the domestic asylum backlog, including by diverting DHS refugee interviewers to interview asylum cases. However, DHS already has 515 asylum officers and the funding for 625, positions it has yet to fill.
Massively increased paperwork and processing burdens on all refugees, refugee interviewers and vetting agencies.
- Family contact information must now be provided for a larger number of family tree members, whether or not they are seeking resettlement. Residential information must now be collected for 10 years instead of five.
- Further, all new requirements were applied retroactively, meaning that all previously screened refugees must undergo new screening procedures. This has also resulted in delays that have led to the expiration of other screening requirements, including the medical screening, leaving families in bureaucratic limbo.
- For the 11 countries designated for additional security reviews, all previous clearances were cancelled, and additional new requirements introduced. The populations to which these apply were also expanded to include not just men but also women, as well as younger populations (14 and 15 year olds).