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Politics and Government

Mohawk Valley Resource Center refugees caught in Trump's actions

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The Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees
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Officials with the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees say their philanthropic work has been interrupted by President Donald Trump's attempts to temporarily halt refugees from entering the country, and that's taking a human toll on families who were ready to start a new life in the U.S.

The resource center had 16 refugees that were on the verge of arriving in Utica when Trump's executive orders were handed down. He tried to stop the entry of any refugees for 120 days so his administration could review the existing vetting system. The resource center's Executive Director Shelly Callahan says it was heartbreaking for their organization, but even worse for the refugees.

"For them it’s got to be - certainly traumatizing - but surreal to have gone through all that and at the 11.5 hour to just be arbitrarily denied and, again, treated as less than human," Callahan said.

Callahan says the president's actions are unnecessary.

"I think they’re punishing people that don’t deserve it and I think if they had looked at the refugee program, it already has extreme refugee vetting and processes in place that are working quite well," she said. "So this door slam for 120 days, to me, it just doesn’t seem to about what they’re saying it’s about because the measures are already in place. Refugees are the most heavily screened and vetted people to enter this country, period."

The resource center, which is reimbursed by the federal government for each refugee they help, typically resettles about 400 people in Utica annually. This year, they're expecting to do less than half of that because of Trump's calls for a temporary ban and a drop in the amount of refugees the country lets in each year. In the wake of those orders, the resource center has laid off two-thirds of its resettlement department. 

But their work has not stopped. Callahan says they're they've been trying to get as many vetted refugees into Utica as possible while Trump's executive orders are suspended due to legal challenges.