CHARLOTTE — This month Catholic Charities in Charlotte is expecting to welcome 36 refugees.
Last week, a federal judge in Hawaii indefinitely barred enforcement of President Donald Trump’s executive order on refugee and migrant entry, pending a full review of the order’s legality by the courts.
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson of the District of Hawaii issued the ruling March 29.
Right now, Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte's Refugee Resettlement Office is working on three cases, said interim director Susan Jassan.
By the end of April, Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte will have resettled about 200 refugees for the federal fiscal year, Jassan said.
The order blocks two provisions of the order — one which suspends the refugee resettlement program and another that blocks travel from six countries with high instances of terror. The order applies nationwide.
With how tenuous and fluctuating the regulations have been this year, the local Refugee Resettlement Office is approaching each day as it comes and tries to plan the best they can, Jassan said.
"We just keep plugging away with a sense of gratitude as families and individuals continue to come in to Charlotte," she said.
— Kimberly Bender, online reporter
Charlotte Diocese continues to receive refugees as courts battle travel ban
CHARLOTTE — Refugee families continue to arrive in the Diocese of Charlotte while President Donald Trump and the courts battle over a travel ban temporarily suspending all refugee resettlement as well as immigration from several Muslim-majority countries.
Since the Trump administration’s initial travel ban was announced Jan. 27, Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte has resettled a total of 45 people, said Susan Jassan, interim director of its Refugee Resettlement Office.
The Charlotte office has received nine refugees from Somalia, six refugees from Ukraine, five refugees from Iraq, four refugees from Bhutan, three refugees from Syria, two refugees from Burma and one from Honduras.
During that same time in Asheville, the diocese has received four families, a total of 15 refugees, all from Ukraine, Jassan said.
Refugees who were approved for travel prior to March 16 were being allowed to travel to the United States in March, Jassan said. The Charlotte office welcomed three Burmese people and two Bhutanese refugees March 23.
In Asheville, one refugee from Russia arrived on March 22 and three refugees from Ukraine arrived March 23, she said.
The Trump administration’s initial travel ban was put on hold by the federal courts, following days of protests at cities and airports across the country, as well as criticism from U.S. bishops. After a federal appeals court rejected the Trump administration’s request to reinstate the travel ban, Trump issued a revised order to remove Iraq from the list of Muslim-majority countries encompassed by the ban. The revised travel ban, which was set to take effect March 16, bars citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Syria from entering the U.S. for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days.
But just hours before it was to take effect, federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland blocked the Trump administration’s revised order.
U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii ruled that the government had not proved it was necessary to protect the country from terrorists trying to infiltrate the country through legal immigration or through the refugee resettlement program. U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland ruled the revised order was meant to be a ban on Muslims and therefore violated the First Amendment.
During a campaign rally in Nashville last week, Trump vowed to fight the latest court ruling all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We’re going to fight this terrible ruling,” the president told a crowd of cheering supporters in Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium. “The danger is clear. The law is clear. The need for my executive order is clear.”
On March 16 in Washington, D.C., White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed the Trump administration plans to appeal the two judges’ rulings.
During the Nashville rally, the president said his administration is “working night and day to keep our nation safe from terrorism. ... For this reason, I issued an executive order to temporarily suspend immigration from places it cannot safely occur.”
“The best way to keep ... radical Islamic terrorists from attacking our country is to keep them from coming to our country in the first place,” Trump said. “This ruling makes us look weak, which we no longer are.”
Despite the court rulings to block the travel ban, Jassan said, Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte still anticipates a reduced workload for the 20-plus employees in Charlotte and three employees in Asheville who work on refugee resettlement.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops runs the largest refugee resettlement program in the United States, and there are 11 staff members in the diocese who receive funding for their positions from the USCCB.
“We are thinking creatively about how to utilize their skills in other areas, looking at the Employment Program and the Youth Program, specifically,” Jassan said.
“We are also hoping to use this time of halted arrivals to evaluate some of our internal processes to improve and streamline some of our methods of serving clients,” she said.
Since the initial travel ban was announced in January, Jassan said her office has received many calls from community members who would like to volunteer to help refugees in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area.
— Kimberly Bender, online reporter. Catholic News Service contributed.Refugee families scheduled to be resettled in Charlotte again next week - See more at: http://catholicnewsherald.com/90-news/local/1312-refugee-families-to-be-resettled-in-charlotte-haulted-by-trump-s-order#sthash.COsuecGw.dpuf
Justice Department to appeal decision blocking temporary travel ban
WASHINGTON, D.C. —The U.S. Department of Justice issued a brief notice March 17 that it will appeal a Maryland federal judge's ruling that blocked President Donald Trump's new executive order on a temporary travel ban.
An appeal of the March 16 decision by U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland sends the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which is based in Richmond, Virginia.
A day before Chuang ruled, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu blocked the revised order, which called for stopping refugee resettlement programs for 120 days and banning citizens of six Muslim-majority countries -- Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- from entering the U.S. for 90 days. The new order leaves out Iraq, which was in his first order.
Both judges said the temporary ban, which was to have taken effect at midnight March 16, violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which says the government can pass no law that establishes religion or prohibits the free exercise of religion.
If the Department of Justice had decided to appeal Watson's order, the case would have gone to the 9th Circuit, the court that upheld several lower court rulings that blocked Trump's first executive order.
Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., or CLINIC, applauded both judges for blocking implementation of the latest Trump administration travel and refugee policies.
"As both judges said, the March 6 executive order is clearly a religion-based test and it should be stopped," said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of CLINIC, which is based in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland. "The language of this order may differ somewhat from the earlier version -- which was also blocked by several federal courts -- but it is no improvement on the core problem with the ban."
"In the United States, we do not base our laws about who may come here to visit, work or study, let alone who may immigrate, on religious beliefs," she said in a March 16 statement. "There is too much evidence that animus toward Muslims is at the heart of both versions of these travel bans."
In their decisions, Watson and Chuang both pointed to anti-Muslim comments made by Trump during his presidential campaign and such comments made by others associated with Trump as evidence that the ban discriminated against a certain religion.
In her statement, Atkinson said: "We stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters, who would be affected disproportionately by the ban on travel from six predominantly Muslim countries."
Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project, said the organization looked forward "to defending this careful and well-reasoned decision in the appeals court." The ACLU was one of the groups that filed suit against the executive order.
Trump's temporary travel ban "has fared miserably in the courts, and for good reason -- it violates fundamental provisions of our Constitution," Jadwat added in a statement.
In her statement, Atkinson said Chuang and Watson were "correct to stop such misguided policies."
"The United States is better than this," she added.
— Catholic News Service