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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News, File

New travel ban 'cruel' and will further harm refugees, Utah agencies say

By Marjorie Cortez | Posted - Mar. 6, 2017 at 6:14 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — Leaders of refugee resettlement agencies in Utah say the Trump administration's latest executive order on entry to the United States issued Monday is "cruel" and will further harm vulnerable refugees.

"It’s counterproductive and still excludes the most vetted and most vulnerable populations in the world. The executive order slams America’s door on refugees, and it’s a betrayal to who we are as a nation," said Natalie El-Deiry, deputy director of the Salt Lake City office of International Rescue Committee.

The new travel ban suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days and reduces the total number of refugee admissions for fiscal year 2017 by nearly 55 percent, said Aden Batar, director of immigration and refugee resettlement for Catholic Community Services of Utah.

"There are working mechanisms in place to properly vet and screen refugees. We don’t understand why the administration is closing our doors and cutting the refugee admission more than half. This doesn’t make any sense nor would it make America safer by having fewer refugees," Batar said.

The executive order also removes Iraq from a list of majority-Muslim countries subject to a 90-day ban on travel to the United States. The remaining countries include Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, Iraq was removed from the list after reassurances from the Iraqi government of increased information sharing with the United States.

The new order goes into effect March 16. It does not revoke existing visas approved before that date and does not apply to current lawful permanent residents and green card holders.

El-Deiry said the new executive order is no better than the first, which was stayed by a panel of federal judges earlier this year.

"The new executive order is cruel and will further harm refugees — including the 60,000 already thoroughly vetted for resettlement in the United States," she said.

Batar said the order has ripple effects that will result in separation of families who cannot be reunited, fewer international students on Utah college campuses and the possibility of layoffs at refugee resettlement agencies that will be serving far fewer new arrivals.

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There are, of course, practical implications, but the executive action flies in the face of the nation's long history of assisting vulnerable populations across the globe, Batar said.

"We Americans have a moral obligation to speak up and defend our deep-rooted values of welcoming the refugees," Batar said, noting that more than 3 million refugees resettled since the end of the Vietnam War "call America their home."

Noor Ul-Hasan, a leader in Utah's Muslim community, said federal officials should focus on means to strengthen an already strenuous refugee vetting process rather than singling out Muslim countries without providing evidence about why they are more dangerous.

"They're trying to show they are more considerate and nice, but that's not enough," Ul-Hasan told Associated Press. "Our government is supposed to be above other dictatorship regimes and have humanity."

Meanwhile, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, lauded Trump's leadership in a prepared statement and urged him "to continue the difficult work of crafting policies that keep us safe while living up to our best values."

Neither Utah Gov. Gary Herbert nor The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had immediate comment on the latest order.

The LDS Church referred to a statement issued when the first executive order was released. It urged "all people and governments to cooperate fully in seeking the best solutions to meet human needs and relieve suffering."

Contributing: Associated Press

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Marjorie Cortez

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