Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Local groups respond to U.S. State Dept. travel ban clarification

The refugee resettlement agency that helped resettle 20 refugees in Delaware over the past year is unhappy with how the U.S. State Department plans to apply the travel ban OK’d by the Supreme Court.

Briefing reporters and others by phone late Thursday afternoon, Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of HIAS – the national agency working to bring refugees to Delaware – stressed the global refugee crisis is growing, with a record number of 66 million refugees and displaced persons according to the UN.

“And frankly, the response of the international community and the United States has been quite disappointing for quite some time now," he said.

And Thursday’s announcement by the State Department that the link between resettlement agencies and refugees is not considered the bona fide relationship necessary to allow refugees U.S. entry only intensified that disappointment.

That means refugees without plans to travel to the U.S. on or before July 6th will be subject to a 120-day ban. No refugees are set to arrive in Delaware before that date.

“This could mean many, many months, if not years, of delay for people who really just want to find safety, get their kids in school, and go to work. And who by the way have spent the last two years with our government – and with a U.S. based organization – meeting all security requirements, explaining their persecution story multiple times,” said Melanie Nezer, HIAS Senior Voice President of Public Policy.

In outlining their interpretation of the high court’s travel ban ruling earlier Thursday, the State Department and White House officials offered no clear reason for the restriction on resettlement groups, instead citing President Trump’s dedication to revisit vetting procedures in hopes of preventing future acts of terrorism.

Grandparents and other non-immediate family members like grandchildren, aunts and uncles are excluded when it comes to the state department's definition of bona fide family ties. ACLU of Delaware's Executive Director Kathleen MacRae said that doesn't seem right.

“The relationship with a grandparent can be a more distant one, or it can be a very close one," MacRae said. "What if the grandparents were the people who actually raised a particular child?”

The State Department’s reason why grandparents are left out is the definition of family under the Immigration and Nationality Act.


MacRae adds there’s no planned legal action locally yet, with the national ACLU waiting for the Supreme Court’s full review of the case. That’s expected to take place in early October. HIAS is also planning its next steps.



Related Content