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Friday, November 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Between Trump orders, about 60 refugees settled in Spokane

In the month since a federal court ruling halted President Donald Trump’s ban on refugee admissions, about 60 refugees settled in Spokane.

“Most of them were people who had been booked to travel before the initial executive order came down,” said Mark Finney, the new executive director of World Relief.

Now, World Relief is preparing for another halt in new refugees once Trump’s new order, issued Monday, goes into effect March 16.

Finney said most of the people resettled in February had plans to travel to Spokane earlier, after going through the U.S.’s refugee vetting process, which can take several years.

The Jan. 27 order immediately halted refugee admissions, in some cases leaving people stranded in airports or unable to board flights to the U.S.

“A lot of them were really in difficult situations. Several of them had sold their homes, quit their jobs,” Finney said of the refugees waiting to come to Spokane.

Resettlement opened up again after the early February court ruling. Many of those resettled were from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Ukraine, Finney said.

The new order is less expansive, banning the U.S. from issuing new visas and approving new refugees. It also caps the number of refugee admissions for 2017 at 50,000, far fewer than the 110,000 cap former President Barack Obama set.

The U.S. has admitted 70,000 to 80,000 refugees per year for the past decade, State Department data shows.

People who have been approved for refugee status and already have travel plans in place should be allowed to enter the U.S. under the new order. Still, Finney said the reduction was “tragic,” especially considering that half of refugees are children.

“There’s 60,000 who are in desperate need of the services our country was already committed to provide who won’t be getting those. They’re going to be stuck,” he said.

World Relief Spokane has laid off 10 people, about one quarter of its workforce, in response to funding cuts due to lower numbers of refugees being resettled.

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