Executive Summary for December 22nd

We review the latest refugee-related issues, including a possible Christmas reprieve as a U.S. judge considers an injunction, while the State Department is set to slash resettlement offices, and Lebanon has fewer Palestinians than it thought.

Published on Dec. 22, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Christmas Reprieve for U.S.-Bound Refugees?

A United States judge will decide before Christmas whether to overturn the country’s refugee ban. Human rights groups are seeking an injunction against a widely criticized Trump administration order.

U.S. district judge James Robart heard arguments from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Jewish Family Service that the ban is putting some refugees in danger while separating others from their immediate family.

The ban, which finally went through in October, affects refugees from 11 countries, nine of which are mostly Muslim countries. It includes the spouses and children of refugees already resettled in the U.S.

“Refugee resettlement is one of our proudest humanitarian achievements,” Mariko Hirose, a Jewish Family Service lawyer, said after the hearing in Seattle. “We as Americans cannot let this administration destroy our refugee program and repeat the worst of this country’s history by letting bigotry turn away those who need our help the most.”

Department of Justice lawyers have argued that the ban “is a reasonable and appropriate way for agency heads to tackle gaps” in refugee screening.

The judge has questioned whether the Department of Homeland Security has the authority to stop the refugee program, when a Congressional act, the Immigration and Nationality Act, already ensures the reunification of refugees’ families once they have settled in the U.S.

Number of Refugee Resettlement Offices in U.S. to Be Slashed

The U.S. State Department says it will reduce the number of offices for resettling refugees. It follows the Trump administration’s decision to slash the number of refugees allowed to enter the U.S.

Refugee resettlement in the U.S. is handled by nine non-profits that rely, in part, on federal funds. These agencies oversee hundreds of local offices in nearly every state. Their ability to help new arrivals with basics such as finding schools and doctors and applying for Social Security cards could now come under threat, advocates warned.

Robert Carey, who ran resettlement under the Obama administration, told Reuters that for refugees, losing access to “services to help them navigate the processes of registering for school, and English classes and finding a job, that will mean that it will take longer for them to navigate life in the U.S. and contribute to our economy.”

A State Department official told Reuters that the agency is looking to “reduce costs and simplify management structures to help the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program run in a way that is fiscally responsible and sustainable.”

Lebanon Has Two-Thirds Fewer Palestinians Than Previously Thought

Lebanon has found it hosts one-third of the number of Palestinian refugees that was previously estimated. The first official census found 174,422 Palestinians now living in Lebanon.

Refugee numbers remain highly contentious in Lebanon, where they affect a fragile sectarian balance. The United Nations refugee agency stopped counting Syrian refugees after it registered 1 million, in an effort to avoid stoking tensions in the country.

Palestinians, both those who fled Palestine in 1948 and in waves since then, together with their offspring, were thought to number as many as 450,000.

Some observers have suggested that the figure demonstrates that many Palestinians have left Lebanon in search of better opportunities. Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, said the census should end speculation over exact numbers.

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