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Central NY refugee agencies react to Trump executive order

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Tom Magnarelli
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WRVO News File Photo
Interfaith Works opened a new headquarters in Syracuse in 2015. Beth Broadwell, president of the organization, is on the right.

A Syracuse agency that resettles refugees in Syracuse is beginning to deal with the fallout of President Donald Trump’s executive order barring refugees from entering the U.S. over the next four months.

Interfaith Works alone was expecting to bring 650 refugees to the Syracuse area this year. With the stroke of a presidential pen, all that work stops.

So at the very least, the agency says the impact will include layoffs. Beth Broadway, who runs Interfaith Works, expects between her agency and Catholic Charities, the other local agency that places refugees, 30 people will be out of work within the next month or so. And stopping the flow of refugees also has a broader economic impact.

"All those people that were making money from refugees, because they pay rent, or the grocery stores where refugees bought food, or the shoe store where the refugees bought shoes, or people who sold them cars. All of that stops. So it’s not good for our economy, either that it’s happening, especially in a city like ours, which is losing population. The refugees keep our population strong,” Broadway said.

Underneath that economic impact lies a human toll. Much of what Interfaith Works does, says Broadway, is reunification of families. So if a refugee is in Syracuse, but a child, parent or other family member is still in a refugee camp somewhere else in the world, Interfaith Works brings them together. And she says that has many central New York refugees very frightened.

"There’s a lot of broken-hearted people today, because they were waiting for a daughter, a grandson, or an aunt or a mother; and that person is not going to come. And it’s not clear when they’re going to be able to come,” she said.

Broadway says there still remains confusion in this country about who refugees are. She says it takes years for people fleeing war, hunger, or political or religious oppression to pass through more than a dozen vetting steps that start with the United Nations and includes the Department of Homeland Security.

“Our biggest concern is for the refugees themselves. They are living in very, very dangerous cirumstances. And for America to turn its back on these people, that’s not what America’s about.”

And when the refugees get to Syracuse, Broadway says agencies like Interfaith Works helps them learn English, find jobs, and register kids in school.

“They get a good start. They are not people anywhere that have been part of the terroirst activities that refugees or Muslims have been accused of doing across this country.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.