Statement on Travel Ban from Aaron Rippenkroeger, President and CEO of Refugee Services of Texas

In recent decades, the U.S. has been a leader in offering protection to refugees.  This period followed a more shameful chapter in U.S. history leading up to World War II, when hundreds of Jews were turned away by the U.S. government for resettlement and later murdered in Nazi death camps.
 
Today, with the worldwide displacement of women, children and other vulnerable people now the worst in recorded history, the current administration is poised to repeat this tragic history with other vulnerable populations for no sound reason.
 
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling last week on the travel ban involving six majority-Muslim nations, the current administration has issued new guidelines for the resettlement of already security-cleared refugees in the U.S.
 
The administration has chosen an overly restrictive path that lacks compassion and disregards numerous family relationships. The new guidelines are immoral, unprincipled, and dangerous to the lives of thousands of children, their parents, and their grandparents. The guidelines betray American and Texan values.
 
After July 6, when the new guidelines take full effect, the lives of hundreds of refugees—mostly women and children—who would have otherwise found fresh starts in Texas may well be left in perpetual limbo - many at risk for their lives.
 
The Supreme Court's order in Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project, No. 16-1436 (June 26, 2017) provides that Sections 6(a) and 6(b) of Executive Order 13780 "may not be enforced against an individual seeking admission as a refugee who can credibly claim a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States."  As stated in the Supreme Court's order "for individuals, a close familial relationship is required.  ... As for entities, the relationship must be formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading [the Order]."
 
According to new guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of State, a refugee who has one of the following relationships with a person already in the United States will be considered to have a credible claim to a ‘bona fide relationship’ upon presentation of sufficient documentation: a parent (including parent-in-law), spouse, fiancé, fiancée, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling, whether whole or half.  This includes step relationships.
 
The following relationships do not qualify:  grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, and any other "extended" family members.   
 
Futhermore, a refugee who has a relationship with an entity in the United States that is formal and documented will be considered to have a credible claim to a bona fide relationship with that entity upon presentation of sufficient documentation or other verifiable information supporting that claim.  The fact that a resettlement agency in the United States has provided a formal assurance for a refugee seeking admission, however, is not sufficient in and of itself to establish a qualifying relationship for that refugee with an entity in the United States. 
 
We call on the current administration to urgently conclude its review of all stated security concerns related to the already stringent refugee screening process - the most rigorous screening of any individuals in the history of the U.S. - so Texas can return to its historic role of welcoming refugees with open arms and fresh starts. As the situation now stands, the current administration risks a shameful repeat of history by tearing apart families and propagating a a false narrative about innocent people who have fled violence and persecution.
 
We encourage all Texans to call their Senators and Representatives at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to support refugee resettlement. Lives are stake.