October 1 was the start of a new federal fiscal year and a new refugee program year. As of September 2019, Kentucky ranked fifth in national arrivals with KRM being the largest resettlement agency in the state. A total of 969 people were resettled through the refugee and Cuban programs during the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2019.
With this new year comes a time to update you, our KRM Partners and community members, on policy updates, refugee admissions, and ways you can stay involved in advocating for and with our newest neighbors.
Refugee Admissions “Goal”
Each fiscal year, the President must sign a “Presidential Determination” stating how many refugees the United States will resettle. This year, the administration proposed resettling 18,000 refugees, the lowest number in the history of the resettlement program.
No refugees can arrive without this signature. The determination was not signed until November 1, 2019. Due to the delay, families have had their travel cancelled and, in some cases, will be postponed indefinitely due to expired medical or security clearances. Read the story of Gentille’s family to hear about how they are coping with this reality.
Who Will Be Resettled?
As part of the Presidential Determination to resettle 18,000 refugees, the administration detailed who might be resettled. The full text of the Presidential Determination is available here.
Notably, the United States will no longer take referrals from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Proposed populations included persecuted religious minorities; Iraqi refugees; refugees from the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) who are processed in their countries of origin only; meaning, they cannot present themselves at the U.S. southern border to apply for refugee resettlement; referrals from the U.S. embassy; select family reunification cases; and refugees in Australia, Nauru, or Papua New Guinea.
This carving-out of the refugee program leaves fewer available slots — of an already-reduced total number of slots to begin with — for those individuals with extreme humanitarian need.
Civil Disobedience in Washington, D.C.
On October 15, KRM’s Chair of the Board of Directors, Mike Puckett, was one of 18 protesters arrested at the Capitol during a planned act of civil disobedience to call attention to the administration’s harmful policies to refugees. The 18 protesters represented the 18,000 refugee admissions figure, and they wore life jackets to signify the life-saving impact of the program. KRM is honored and grateful to have Mike Puckett represent our community in this effort. You can learn more in this opinion piece from Anne C. Richard, a former Secretary of State who was among the 18 people arrested. The photo above is from the United Church of Christ. You can also learn more about the protest at their website.
Executive Order: Local and State Opt-Out
On September 26, the administration released an Executive Order allowing for state and local government officials to opt out of the federal refugee resettlement program. This means Mayors and Governors in communities where refugees will be resettled will need to offer consent in order for refugees to be initially resettled in our state.
This Executive Order suggests that communities don’t welcome refugees. Through your ongoing volunteer work and support, we know that isn’t true. Kentuckians do welcome newcomers to join us in calling Kentucky home. Refugees make our community strong and vibrant, and Kentuckians come together around the values of home, hospitality, and welcome. As a response to this Executive Order, KRM is collaborating with other local, state, and national refugee offices and government officials to obtain these required approvals and to ensure refugees aren’t rejected from resettling in Kentucky.
From national partners at Refugee Council USA: “On July 15th, this administration announced its plans to ban asylum seekers and those who seek safety at the U.S. southern border if they travel through another country en route to the United States. This asylum ban is cruel, unnecessary, and illegal. It has life or death consequences for families and individuals who are fleeing violence, desperation, and persecution. All people have the legal right to seek a safe place to call home, and seeking asylum is protected within U.S. and international law.” The Supreme Court has ruled that this administration policy can be enforced during pending legal challenges. KRM continues to serve some families seeking asylum in the United States through our immigration legal services.
A Warm Winter: Seasonal Donation Drives
You can help families stay warm this winter by donating winter coats and accessories to either KRM office in Lexington or Louisville. The most needed items are coats, gloves, scarves, and hats. Learn more about this and see a list of other items collected for families at our Donate Items page.
Stay in the Loop on Holiday activities
Throughout the fall and winter seasons, various community events and donation drives are held to support KRM and the families we serve. Do you like shopping local and supporting KRM at the same time? Holiday ice skating? Serving Thanksgiving meal to newcomers? One of the best ways to stay up to date on these opportunities is to sign up for KRM’s email newsletter and follow us on social media. You can do both here. You are always welcome to send us a message through our Contact Us form, too.
For additional perspectives on immigration, asylum, and resettlement, visit Refugee Council USA, Church World Service (CWS, KRM’s national office), and the Migratory Notes archive of weekly email newsletters.
Support the Ongoing Work
Through your support, KRM is here doing the work. Besides the critical initial resettlement services that families receive when they first arrive, refugees and immigrants continue to visit KRM because our services empower them as they build new lives in Kentucky. Your support ensures that KRM can continue providing high-quality work in medical navigation, job development, youth and family engagement, college readiness, community resource referrals, and immigration legal services.
You can become a KRM Partner by donating online. Already a KRM Partner? Consider renewing or increasing your gift to increase your impact. You can also rally your community of friends and family to support KRM through Giving Tuesday on December 3 and the Lexington-based Good Giving Challenge, which runs from December 3 to December 9.
And in case you missed it, you can learn more about the impact of your support in our 2018 Annual Report. Thank you for joining the journey.