“Government Shutdown 101: What Does It Mean for Migrants and Refugees?” was my first post on how the closing of the federal government has had a real and drastic impact on immigrants and refugees and their families, friends, congregations, and communities.
The government shut down at midnight on September 30, and unfortunately, two weeks later, the country is still in the midst of a funding impasse that has shuttered many federal government agencies and operations. Immigration courts, legal orientation programs for individuals in immigration detention, and government offices that protect due process and civil rights for migrants and refugees remain crippled by the ongoing shutdown.
The United States’ refugee resettlement program has similarly been halted by the shutdown. Refugees who have been approved to arrive in the United States have been delayed by a travel moratorium in effect through at least October 28. This delay will perpetuate hardships by keeping refugees overseas where they may have nowhere to call home and keeping families apart who are waiting to reunite.
In addition to the uncertainty and distress caused by this travel ban, refugees scheduled to arrive in the United States this month may have to deal with additional bureaucratic delays caused by their delayed travel. For example, exit visas, medical clearances, or security clearances these refugees obtained to travel internationally will likely lapse while refugees wait for the travel ban to be lifted.
Refugees we have recently welcomed to American communities also face challenges in accessing public services. Our partners at Refugee Services of Texas have shared how the shutdown has impacted their clients. Elizabeth Schmidt, director of the Austin-based organization, says:
The state that the government is in currently does not allow for that positive start that we historically give to refugees who are being resettled into our country, and so the fear is that we can’t provide what we really need to refugees who have been through so many traumatic experiences.
We continue to pray that these bureaucratic hurdles are addressed swiftly to allow refugees to reunite with loved ones already in the United States and permit communities to get back to the happy work of welcoming them fully and warmly.