Since October, Lutheran Community Services Northwest has helped about 500 refugees resettle in Oregon and Washington.
Many of them come from Muslim-majority countries like Somalia and Syria, fleeing violence and religious persecution. More than 60,000 refugees have moved to Oregon since 1975. About 1,200 enter Oregon annually. Most of them end up in Multnomah County.
But the Supreme Court’s decision Tuesday to uphold a policy that bans travel from five Muslim-majority countries — including Somalia and Syria — could make it difficult for those refugees in the Pacific Northwest to reunite with family still abroad.
“My worries are for people that have been separated from their loved ones, especially from countries of Somalia or Syria — countries where we still have people who have left behind their loved ones,” said Salah Ansary, senior district director with Lutheran Community Services Northwest, which runs a refugee resettlement program.
“Reuniting them might be difficult. Some people have been delayed and delayed to join their family members, so the ramifications of this Supreme Court decision will be far-reaching and affects a lot of folks.”
The ban prohibits most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States. In a big win for the White House Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled President Donald Trump’s proclamation banning travel from those countries was within the scope of presidential authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
“The Supreme Court has upheld the clear authority of the President to defend the national security of the United States,” President Trump said in a statement. “In this era of worldwide terrorism and extremist movements bent on harming innocent civilians, we must properly vet those coming into our country.”
Reaction from immigrant rights advocates was swift. Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project called Tuesday “a dark day in American history.”
“[For] people who have every legal right to live here who are not affected by the ban, some of those people are faced with the decision [of] do I continue to live in the United States? Or now that half of my family is stuck in another country and can’t come join me, do I now have to leave and give up on my American dream?” Jadwat said.
Ansary, who has worked as an immigrant rights advocate since the ‘80s, said Tuesday’s ruling is just part of America’s long, checkered history with immigration over the years. He said he thinks about Japanese internment and the targeting of a specific population in that instance.
“Something that may be legal may not be moral or right” Ansary said.
Immigrant rights advocates say the ban is a direct attack on the Muslim community.
“The decision today is a devastating blow to thousands of Muslim families including those right here in the United States who have been targeted by this administration by the very beginning of this presidency,” said Marika Hirose, litigation director with the International Refugee Assistance Project, a plaintiff in the case against the ban.