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Spokane refugees watch and worry as new immigration policy takes effect

Jan. 28, 2017 Updated Sat., Jan. 28, 2017 at 8:29 p.m.

Ryan Crocker, of Spokane Valley, served as U.S. ambassador to five Muslim countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan. He said Friday in response to President Trump’s crackdown on Muslim refugees, “This is a core identity of ours that we are repudiating in a very callous fashion.” (Musadeq Sadeq / AP)
Ryan Crocker, of Spokane Valley, served as U.S. ambassador to five Muslim countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan. He said Friday in response to President Trump’s crackdown on Muslim refugees, “This is a core identity of ours that we are repudiating in a very callous fashion.” (Musadeq Sadeq / AP)

The uncertainty and confusion sparked by President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration enacted Friday is shared by refugees in Spokane, many of whom have been working to bring other family members to the United States.

Brent Hendricks is the executive director of Global Neighborhood, which operates a thrift store that offers employment and job training to newly arrived refugees. Most quickly start filling out the paperwork required to bring additional family members here, a lengthy process that requires a lot of time and money, Hendricks said.

“A lot of people do that because their families are stuck in the same situation they were in,” he said. “That’s all up in the air. That’s even from people who aren’t from those blacklisted countries.”

Trump signed a sweeping executive order Friday that he billed as a necessary step to stop “radical Islamic terrorists” from coming to the U.S. Included is a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen and a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee program.

One couple has been working to get their son and his family to Spokane from Ukraine. They were approved and have plane tickets for Feb. 3.

“We’re still waiting to see if that got held up or if that’s just canceled,” said Hendricks, in Spokane. He said the family in Ukraine has “lost their home, they lost their belongings, they sold everything they could” to come to America.

The refugee community as a whole is worried, Hendricks said.

“There’s a lot of worry and a lot of concern right now,” he said. “Everybody knows it’s bad, but we don’t know yet how it’s going to play out.”

Hundreds of refugees are resettled here by World Relief Spokane every year. The organization has been working with upset refugees this week.

“We ask that in this political climate of hostility towards refugees, we stand together,” the organization posted to Facebook on Saturday. “Let us not only continue to make refugees feel welcome in our neighborhoods, but also fight for their right to be here.”

Some Washington state leaders decried Trump’s new immigration policy Saturday, including Washington’s new lieutenant governor, Cyrus Habib.

“I am the son of U.S. citizens who were once Iranian immigrants to this country” Habib wrote. “Trump’s #muslimban is unamerican and immoral.”

Democratic Senator Patty Murry released a statement early Saturday morning calling Trump’s policy against refugees fleeing violence “abhorrent.”

“America has long been a place of safety for people around the world fleeing religious, political and gender-based persecution and violence,” she said. “So much of what makes America great is our diversity – and I urge this administration to work to further our national security, not merely target individuals based on their religion or nationality.”

Hendricks said he shares their concerns, calling Trump’s order unwise and cruel. “As an organization we stand in strong opposition to this policy,” he said. “Refugees under the previous law already faced the strictest vetting policy of any group entering the United States.”

Ryan Crocker, a Spokane native who served as the U.S. ambassador to five Muslim countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq, told the New York Times Friday that Trump’s executive order will alienate the pro-Western elites that Americans turn to for help in Muslim countries as well as turn the country’s back on people who risked their lives to help American soldiers.

“You know, we can be cynical about these things, but values count,” said Crocker. “This is a core identity of ours that we are repudiating in a very callous fashion. What did we do – get a new inscription on the Statue of Liberty?”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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