In the News / February 2018

Refugee Populations in Erie Feeling Effects

Topic / /

More than one year after the new Administration, the full effects of new refugee and immigration policies are beginning to be felt.

Samir Dabbah and Safwat Jarkas, a Syrian couple, are some of those that are directly affected. Samir and Safwat are waiting to be reunited with their two youngest children — Ammar Dabbah, 25, and Dana Dabbah, 21 — who had to stay behind in Jordan when their parents were granted permission to resettle in the United States. However, with current policies set in place by the Administration, refugee resettlement has slowed significantly, drastically slashing the number of those resettling at all. And this slowdown has extended to Erie.

In the last year, the refugee cap has dropped nearly 60% to only 45,000 entrants. To make matters worse, Trump’s executive orders have included new vetting measures and travel restrictions that have made it difficult to reach this nationwide cap, said Dylanna Jackson, director of USCRI’s Erie office. USCRI Erie is the city’s primary resettlement agency.

“You automatically are seeing a lower number and then you have policies that start pushing on that lower number,” Jackson said. “Do we hope we reach that lower number? Yes, but if policies are pushing, we don’t know.”

In fact, the US is on track to settle far fewer than the 45,000 allotted. Uncertainty has been felt by resettlement agencies since Trump’s election just over a year ago; this uncertainty has only increased with the solidification of a mere 45,000 person refugee cap and now with increasingly strict policy. Processes and vetting that already took years are now taking even longer.

“You’re looking at slowing a process that already takes a decade for some folks, which automatically is going to reduce the number of folks that qualify and get in,” Says Jackson.

Now, families like that of Samir and Safwat are beginning to lose hope.

Samir is worried his chronic health problems will prevent him from seeing his son and daughter again.

“He feels like he is not going to live for long,” said Bassam Dabbah, translating for his father. “He wishes his children (could) be with him at the end of his life… We love the United States: the life here, the people here…”

But what is a life when separation from and fear for the well being of loved ones is so prevalent?

Read Samir and Safwat’s full story here.

Photos courtesy of Greg Wohlford, Erie Times-News

Related content

See More Posts