HIAS Files Preliminary Injunction Challenging Reduction of Refugee Admissions to 50,000

BALTIMORE—Late last night, HIAS filed a motion asking for a preliminary injunction on President Trump’s reduction of the refugee admissions cap from 110,000 to 50,000 for Fiscal Year 2017. The reduction came as part of the president’s recent executive order on refugees. The legal motion today relates to a lawsuit filed on February 7 in U.S. District Court in Maryland’s Southern Division by HIAS, IRAP and several individuals challenging the constitutionality of the order.

“If allowed to stand, this executive order will have a devastating impact on thousands of families who were already preparing to begin new lives in safety and freedom in the United States,” said HIAS Managing Attorney Liz Sweet.

“Before this order, HIAS was poised to resettle nearly 5,000 refugees this fiscal year. This reduction would bar entry this year for nearly 2,000 of those refugees—many of whom are women and children and all of whom are acutely vulnerable victims of war and persecution who have waited years and followed all the rules to come to the U.S.” Sweet said.  

More than 1,360 HIAS clients worldwide had already completed the vetting process and had been approved for refugee status before the order. Many even had travel booked.

“Each day that they wait is a day in a precarious situation they believed they were going to finally leave behind them. The security checks it took them months and years to pass will soon expire, forcing them to begin again the harrowing, years-long process they have only just completed. It would be hard to overstate the agony this is causing for vulnerable refugees all around the world,” Sweet added.  

One of the many HIAS clients impacted by this order is Eden*, a lawful permanent resident from Eritrea. Eden taught herself English, has enrolled in nursing school, and just applied for citizenship. She also recently gave birth to her first child, a joyful occasion that was tinged with sadness because her mother could not be with her. Eden’s mother, a Pentecostal Christian, fled religious persecution in Eritrea and had been fully vetted and approved to come to the U.S. as a refugee, but her travel was canceled following the executive order and has not been rescheduled. Eden has not seen her mother for seven years and, given her worsening health, she worries her son will never get to meet his grandmother. This is just one of the many families devastated by this order.

“As a Jewish organization that has worked since 1881 to protect and resettle refugees based on the Torah’s command to welcome the stranger, we see the Executive Order as a direct assault against both our humanitarian work and our religious duty,” said HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield.

The Refugee Act of 1980 sets out a clear process through which the president determines the number of refugees admitted in a given year. The refugee admissions cap for the current fiscal year was previously determined by President Obama at 110,000, up from 85,000 during fiscal year 2016.

“By signing the executive order on January 27, President Trump chose to ignore the proper legal process for adjusting the refugee ceiling, as well as the requirement to consult with congress. Worse, traumatized people who had been given hope had it taken away with the stroke of a pen,” Hetfield added.

“This order not only hurts our clients and our partners, it raises serious questions about the future of the refugee resettlement program in the United States. For the safety of the thousands of vulnerable refugees directly impacted by this illegal and unconstitutional about-face on refugee policy, we are asking the court to issue an injunction immediately,” said Hetfield.

UPDATE: On March 10, HIAS filed a motion asking for a preliminary injunction on President Trump’s revised refugee ban. Read more.

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