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San Diego Resettlement Agencies Bracing For New Immigration Order

A sign at Catholic Charities in San Diego marks its refugee services building...

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Above: A sign at Catholic Charities in San Diego marks its refugee services building, Feb. 17, 2016.

With reports of a new executive order on immigration coming next week, refugee resettlement organizations in San Diego are once again bracing for potential changes.

The region’s four agencies had halted their resettlement operations when President Donald Trump’s initial immigration and refugee order was introduced, but resumed them earlier this month when that order was suspended by a federal judge. In addition to freezing immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, the order would have temporarily halted the resettlement program and banned Syrian refugees indefinitely.

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Catholic Charities Executive Director Robert Moser points to a whiteboard calendar that the agency uses to track refugee arrivals, Feb. 17, 2017.

Trump has said the actions are necessary to protect the nation from foreigners who may intend to harm Americans. At a Thursday news conference, he said "the new executive order is being tailored to the decision we got down from the court."

One thing the president could do is further reduce the country’s annual cap on refugees. He has already cut it to 50,000 refugees, down from former President Barack Obama’s 110,000 limit. The president could reset that cap to be the amount of refugees already resettled in the country this federal fiscal year, effectively halting the program, said Catholic Charities Executive Director Robert Moser.

This would also affect funding for resettlement agencies because they receive administrative dollars for each refugee they place. Losing those federal dollars would impact operations in San Diego because many seeking refuge may still try to cross the border, Moser said.

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Catholic Charities Executive Director Robert Moser discusses refugee resettlement from his office, Feb. 17, 2017.

“So people are still going to come, but the resources and services to help them won’t be there. And we’re going to be, in our region, most heavily affected by that,” he said.

Migrants who enter through the border would not receive refugee status but could apply for asylum, possibly limiting their eligibility for resources, Moser added.

He said the agency would look for funding from the state or other options to cover that potential funding gap, as it previously did when security restrictions limited resettlement following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

By the end of this week, Catholic Charities will have resettled eight refugees from Iraq, Ivory Coast and Cameroon. Next week, six Iraqi refugees are due to arrive and another family is expected in the beginning of next month.

Etleva Bejko, director of refugee and immigration services for Jewish Family Service, said her organization will have resettled three families by the end of this month and expects another during the first week of March. But, she added, there are still many others in the process to come to San Diego.

“We have more than 120 refugees still in the pipeline and the majority are from Iraq, followed by Syrians and Congolese. We are hoping and planning for these refugees, who are already in the process, to arrive in San Diego in the near future,” Bejko said in an emailed statement.

International Rescue Committee Executive Director David Murphy said he has noticed a decrease in arrivals, possibly in anticipation of the expected executive order, but said the agency resettled 30 refugees this week and expects 18 more next week. After that, Murphy said, IRC has no new arrivals planned.

RELATED: After Settling In San Diego, Struggle Doesn’t End For Some Syrian Refugees

According to Reuters, Trump’s new executive order will come after the Justice Department said it will not pursue a legal battle over the president’s original executive order, a suspension of which was upheld by a three-panel judge on Feb. 9 after Washington state filed suit.

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Many local immigrant- and refugee-serving organizations were pleased by the move, but not all in San Diego were happy with the ruling.

Tony Krvaric, chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County, expressed disappointment at the news on Twitter.

“Shocking that Judges would substitute their judgement over POTUS. What if there's a current plot against us brewing? Who'll be responsible?” said Krvaric.

In a tweet this week, Krvaric said he was a “proud, legal immigrant.” According to his website, he was born in Sweden.

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Tarryn Mento
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksThe health beat is about more than just illness, medicine and hospitals. I examine what impacts the wellness of humans and their communities.

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