February 3, 2017

DuPage Agency Aims to Help Refugees

“Welcome to America” signs line the walls at World Relief DuPage/Aurora. As a branch of a national program that works to resettle roughly 350 refugees locally, their work involves finding housing, employment and legal status for those coming to the U.S.

“Refugees are actually a legal category of immigrant and they are distinguished from other immigrants because they are fleeing persecution, so persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality political opinion or social group,” explained Alison Bell, Senior Resettlement Manager with World Relief DuPage/Aurora.

But recently their goal of helping these people has become nearly impossible after President Trump signed an executive order that paused the refugee admittance program for the next 120 days, with Syrian refugees barred indefinitely.

“There’s a lot of things we can’t answer yet, and that’s almost harder than knowing an answer that’s difficult to receive, so we’re trying to get that information out as quickly as we can in languages so our clients can understand it,” added Bell.

Besides working to impart the information to those they serve, they also have to help them cope with it.

“About 70% of the refugees that World Relief settles are being resettled to rejoin family members, to rejoin loved ones the were separated from because of war, or because of violence. We don’t know how long it’s going to be until we’re able to see those families reunited, and that’s a difficult thing for anyone to have to tell a parent that your child isn’t going to come for at least four months and we don’t know how long it’s going to be,” said Bell.

It’s left the agency and local leaders fighting for a brighter future for refugees. Democratic Congressman Bill Foster released a statement saying: “I strongly disagree with the order.” And: “I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing legislation to block the Trump administration’s travel and refugee ban.”

Republican Congressman Randy Hultgren has stated: “The President’s executive order is overly broad and its interpretation has been inconsistent and confused.” While saying our visa screening processes should be reviewed and strengthened.

As for World Relief they’re doing their part to help others understand their mission.

“Refugees are vetted more extensively than any other group of immigrants that come to the U.S. We’re confident in that program, but we want to be able to provide the information that the administration needs for them to be confident in that program as well,” said Bell.

If President Trump’s order stands as is the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. this year will be capped at 50,000, cut by a little over half of the 110,000 ceiling set by President Obama.

Naperville News 17’s Alyssa Bochenek reports.

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