July 24, 2024

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Kansas Refugee Specialist Complains Vetting Process Now “Onerous”

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Southwest Kansas has a much higher percentage of refugees who work than do other parts of the region.

Jessica Stephenson, a program specialist who coordinates refugee resettlement in Kansas, complained at a refugee forum in Garden City on Thursday that under the Trump administration the security vetting process has become “onerous.”

“The process can already take a very long time,” said Stephenson. “We could see a tremendous backlog and slowing-down of the process.”

According to Stephenson, the presidential executive order signed on Oct. 24 extends the ban on refugees from 11 countries another 90 days. Nine of those 11 countries have a Muslim-majority. In 2016, refugees from those designated countries accounted for 44 percent of all refugee arrivals in the United States.

For the record, as reported in the Garden City Telegram, 580 refugees have come to Kansas in 2017. From the list of countries that have sent refugees–and from the article itself–it is hard to deduce the logic behind granting refugee status.

Burma, for instance, has sent the most refugees to Kansas this year at 141. 136 refugees arrived from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 121 have come from Somalia, 55 from the Sudan, 32 from Eritrea, 26 from Bhutan, 23 from Ethiopia, 15 from Iraq, 15 from Syria, eight from Iran, three from Afghanistan, three from Salvador, one from Palestine and one from Nigeria.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Eligibility for refugee status is determined on a case-by-case basis through an interview with a specially-trained USCIS officer. The interview is non-adversarial and is designed to obtain information about an individual’s refugee claim and eligibility for resettlement to the United States.” That said, no refugees who arrived in Kansas came from South America, Europe, or Asia east of Burma.

Another result of Trump’s executive order is the suspension of automatic family reunification in certain cases. Said Stephenson, “I know from the time that I worked in the IRC Garden City office, the number one question that I always got was, ‘When is my family coming? When is my wife coming? When is my husband coming? When is my daughter coming?’ And so it’s really hard to look at people in the eye and say, ‘I don’t know. It’s out of my hands.’”

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