July 26, 2019

Possible policy change would negatively affect local community, director says

By Sean Gallagher

If the Trump administration moves forward in “zeroing out” the admission of refugees to the United States, the Indianapolis community would feel the negative effects of such a policy change, said Heidi Smith, director of the archdiocese’s Refugee and Immigrant Services (RIS).

“Refugees make our community better, not only with their vibrancy and desire to give back, but also with the skills they add to our workforce,” Smith said. “Right now, we receive more calls from employers wanting to hire our clients than we could even begin to fill. This would have a devastating effect on Indianapolis employers who rely on our clients to keep their businesses growing.”

According to Politico, a Washington-based news outlet, officials in the Trump administration began considering in mid-July a plan to allow no further refugees into the United States.

RIS resettled 400 refugees in the Indianapolis area during the 2016-17 fiscal year and 220 refugees the following fiscal year. Those numbers would go to zero if the proposed plan is implemented.

Smith said that it is “completely disheartening” to refugees already resettled in central Indiana.

“Many of them have spouses and children who were separated in the midst of the wars and persecution that caused them to flee,” she said. “It can take years for cases to be tracked and for families to be able to join together again.

“Thus, many of them worry that they will not be able see their loved ones again, as such a policy could keep their loved ones in harm’s way. The refugee resettlement program is truly a life-saving program, and to be denied access to it could mean the difference between life and death for refugees fleeing violence across the world.”

Smith views the possible policy change with concern.

“Decimating the U.S. resettlement program is unnecessary, counterproductive, undermines American interests and makes our country less safe,” she said. “Over the past two years, we have already seen the dire consequences of the decline in U.S. refugee resettlement.

“When the United States signals to the world that protecting vulnerable individuals is not a priority, the world takes notice,” Smith said. “Refugee resettlement has already seen a drastic decline globally, impacting front-line countries including key military allies that host the overwhelming majority of the world’s refugees.”

(For more information about the archdiocese’s Refugee and Immigrant Services, visit www.archindy.org/cc/refugee.)

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