The Executive Order and What it Means

airport-welcome-wisam-1.jpgTravel Ban, 120 days, 90 days, seven Muslim-majority countries, there are a lot of catch-phrases and facts floating around about The President’s executive orders on refugees. With Monday’s signing of the revised order, a new layer of complexity and confusion has arisen. We at World Relief Chicago want you to be informed and confident in speaking about the issue of refugee resettlement. We’ve put together this fact sheet to explain what the new E.O. actually says and what that means, particularly when it comes to our work with refugees in Chicago.

  • The new executive order revokes and replaces the original executive order on refugees. This means that the original bill, which was temporarily suspended due to legal issues, will not go back into affect. The game is reset so to speak.
  • Suspends entry of foreign nationals from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen for 90 days. There are some new clauses that make exceptions for green card holders and allow for case by case judgements on medical emergencies and other special circumstances. But, for the most part, individuals from these seven countries won’t be allowed into the US until after June 14th.
  • Suspends the entire US refugee resettlement program for a minimum 120 days. This is one of the major stipulations that affects World Relief Chicago. It means, from March 16 – July 14, World Relief and all other US refugee resettlement agencies will not be receiving any new refugee families. Not only does this prevent Syrian refugees — fleeing civil war and ISIS — from finding a safe home in America, but it also affects refugees from Burma, Ukraine, Cambodia, and many other countries who are not connected to ISIS. Four months may not seem unreasonable, but, for war-weary parents trying to provide for their children in refugee camps, it’s a long time.
  • Reduces the number of refugees the US will accept this year from 110,000 to 50,000. This is a huge cut that has major implications for World Relief Chicago. This year, the US has accepted 32,000 refugees, 148 of whom have been resettled through World Relief Chicago. This means that from now until the new fiscal year (Oct 1st), only 18,000 more refugees will be allowed into the US and a maximum of 68 will be resettled through World Relief Chicago. These numbers are the lowest in our country’s history. Last year, the US accepted 84,000 and World Relief Chicago resettled 425 refugees. All this stands in stark contrast to the vast amount of need as we are currently facing the largest humanitarian crisis of our generation.
  • Issues a review of the immigration and refugee resettlement process. The current refugee screening, which is the most thorough of all US entry processes, is a multi-step process that generally lasts anywhere between 18 months to 3 years, and includes fingerprinting, biometrics, retina scans, and multiple interviews by different agencies, including the United Nations, State Department, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  For this reason, as well as the system’s proven track record (of the roughly three million refugees admitted since 1980, none has ever killed a single American in a terrorist attack), World Relief has argued that that compassion and security do not have to be mutually exclusive.

According to Tim Breene, CEO of World Relief “This new executive order does not solve the root problems with the initial order—the cutting of refugee admissions by 55% and the inability for some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees to come to the United States, it is more of the same.” World Relief has publicly committed to being both pro-security and pro-refugee. For the past forty years, we’ve carried out our mission, to empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable. A large facet of carrying out that mission has been in resettling refugees. In a recent press release, World Relief called on the administration to commit the resources and coordination needed to carry out the security review process as quickly as possible to ensure that this life-saving refugee resettlement program is not delayed any longer than necessary. “We stand with refugees. Standing with us are many thousands of American citizens in congregations and communities across the nation who have joined us in this cause,” says World Relief President Scott Arbeiter, “We will continue to appeal to churches throughout the U.S. to continue to support refugees.”

If you would like to join us in supporting refugees, we have released a limited edition #WeWillAlwaysWelcomeRefugees t-shirt. The t-shirt is available for purchase on All proceeds go to support our work with refugees.


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