‘Travel ban’ catches around 100 Texas-bound refugees in limbo

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Refugee Services of Texas tell KXAN around 100 Texas-bound refugees were caught in the confusion over President Trump’s travel ban and its block by a federal court.

President Trump’s executive order banned refugees and travelers from seven predominately Muslim countries. Over the weekend, an appeals court opted to keep in place a temporary restraining order issued by a federal judge on Friday, temporarily halting the ban.

The Trump administration says the order looked to “put the safety and security of the American people first.” The Justice Department just filed a brief with a federal appeals court to keep the ban in place.

President Trump told a group of military men and women Monday, “We have to defend our nation.”

CEO of Refugee Services of Texas, Aaron Rippenkroeger, said, “Our understanding is that there will be arrivals for the next two weeks. But after that, we don’t have any information.” He says around 25 non-profits are beginning to run services in Texas, since the state government opted out of the multi-million dollar federal program.

“We’re going to be facing some gaps. I think that’s pretty clear. There’s the gaps that may occur around the state transition and with whatever happens on the federal side,” said Rippenkroeger.

He says they need generous donors to step in because the next few weeks are uncertain at best. He says Texas-bound refugees were caught in the chaos at different airports around the country. Fifty-seven refugees were turned back and now workers for the Refugee Services of Texas hopes to locate them and tell them they can continue their journey.

Lawyers for refugees and asylum seekers are telling their clients one thing across Texas: finish your legal paperwork now.

“Now is not the time to wait. If you’re eligible for an immigration benefit at this time, take action and move forward with your case,” said Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch. She says that’s her advice for any of her clients from the Middle East — refugee or not.

“Who knows what’s coming down the pipe tomorrow,” said Lincoln-Goldfinch.

There are six big steps before refugees can come to the United States and start a new life. First, refugees in need of protection apply for refugee resettlement. Then the security checks begin. Federal investigators look for security threats, past immigration or criminal violations and any connections to criminals.

Then applicants go through an interview with the Department of Homeland Security. Step four includes bio-metric security checks which include fingerprinting.

Then applicants complete a class focused on American culture, customs and process and get a medical screening. After that, representatives of the nine resettlement agencies meet to decide where to place the refugees and set up their travel.

Finally, step 7, the refugees arrive in the United States where representatives meet them at the airport and help them adjust in their new communities.

The executive order is blocked until the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco makes a final decision. They’ll start hearing the case Tuesday. Until then, refugees are coming into the United States.

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