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Refugee Advocates Prepare For New Challenges Under Travel Ban


For more on how this revised travel ban will affect refugees, Linda Hartke joins us now. She's president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. Welcome.

LINDA HARTKE: Thank you. It's wonderful to be with you.

SHAPIRO: How will the latest version of this policy affect the people who you work with?

HARTKE: Well, it's instilling fear, uncertainty, a loss of hope for the future. And that's both for refugees who are overseas who've already been vetted and cleared and waited, ready to travel as well as family members, friends, local churches here in the U.S. who are anxiously awaiting people's arrival.

SHAPIRO: Can you tell us a story about somebody who might have been vetted and cleared who will not now be able to come to the U.S.?

HARTKE: Well, for example, I mean I can't use the person's name, but we're in the final stages of getting ready, or we're getting ready to receive a single mom from the Democratic Republic of Congo who we were hoping was going to be resettled in Charleston, S.C. She arrived at the airport just I think within the last 48 hours and has just given birth to her baby so was not allowed to travel because the child needs to go through final medical screening. But now that will take time. She doesn't or won't be coming to the U.S. with any family connections here. So this new ban will probably prevent her travel.

SHAPIRO: And you're saying she likely would have gotten in under the wire if it were not for the requirements for the medical tests for the newborn baby.

HARTKE: That's right. That combined obviously with the implementation of part of the president's travel ban.

SHAPIRO: Are there people you're working with who still will be able to come to this country under these new rules?

HARTKE: Well, we expect so. We're still really waiting for definitive guidance from the Department of State on what will be possible and what won't. There's - there are lots of questions swirling about and how specifically family relationships will be understood.

SHAPIRO: Do you have a sense right now given the various stories of refugees waiting in the queue whether it is more common for people to have the kinds of family connections that would allow them to come to the U.S. or not?

HARTKE: Typically refugees who've applied for resettlement and are in process to be considered to come to the U.S. - probably about 50 to 60 percent of them have some family tie. Again, the question is, will - what family ties will the U.S. government recognize? But about half or a little bit more of the refugees who are admitted to the U.S. have a family member already well-established here.

But to give you another example, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service resettles unaccompanied refugee minors. These are children who've lost their parents or have been separated from them. They don't have family in the U.S. They don't even have family with them in a refugee camp as they wait. They're extraordinarily vulnerable. And there are new foster families here in the U.S. ready to love them and give them a new home and help them rebuild their lives. But because of no family tie, that entire group of refugees - vulnerable children - will not be allowed to travel.

SHAPIRO: Linda Hartke, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, thank you for talking with us.

HARTKE: Thank you very much, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.