“When you go to bed you don’t even know if you are going to wake up or not. Because, a bomb can hit anytime, anywhere.” Says 20 year old former refugee, Sarah Alsammak.
Through much of the Obama Administration, North Carolina resettled between 2,500 and 3,000 refugees annually. That spiked to 3,300 in 2016, driven by an increase of refugees from Syria and Congo. In 2017, refugee resettlements across the United State dropped, and in North Carolina the number fell below 2,000. In 2018, projections show resettlements to drop below 900.
The reduction of resettlements comes as a direct result of a policy agenda from President Donald Trump. Last year, the Administration reduced the cap on refugees allowed into the country to only 45,000. President Trump called for “extreme vetting” of refugees in the name of national security, despite any evidence that refugees increase risk of harm on American soil.
Scott Phillips, the USCRI North Carolina Field Office director in Raleigh points out that, “Refugee status is not a socioeconomic status,” he said. “So we have doctors, lawyers, factory workers, farmers, or people who have existed their whole life in a refugee camp.”
This significant halt in resettlement has negatively affected refugees in the United States looking to reunite with family. Mmasa Lumungu Wakilongo lives in Raleigh with his wife and children after fleeing extreme violence in the Congo and time in a refugee camp in Tanzania. When his family was approved to come to the United States, he said he also made sure the paperwork was done for his children from his first wife. Through a USCRI interpreter, he explained that because his daughter was pregnant, she could not travel, and that affected the other children as well. But that was more than a year ago, and by May, they were not yet reunified, something that caused him a lot of stress.
That feeling has been shared among other refugees around North Carolina.
“Among the refugees there is concern,” said Phillips. “If there’s a family member waiting, there is definitely a lot of anxiety.”
Read the full article and its interactive data charts here.