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Resettlement process restarted for at least five prospective N.H. refugees

  • Zoe Picard attends a vigil in support of refugee and immigrant communities in downtown Concord after attending a worship service with the Islamic Society of Greater Concord on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Monitor staff
Monday, February 06, 2017

Five refugees whose travel plans were delayed by President Trump’s immigration ban might be coming to New Hampshire after all.

A federal judge suspended the executive order Friday, reversing the temporary halt on all refugee settlement for four months and the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. The ban would have also limited new arrivals from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days.

“What we understand is that the State Department has resumed working with the International Organization for Migration,” said Amy Marchildon, director of Services for New Americans at Ascentria Care Alliance in Concord. “They are looking at scheduling arrivals through Feb. 17.”

Marchildon said two families, one from Myanmar and one from the Democratic Republic of Congo, were originally scheduled to be resettled in Nashua and Concord over the next week.

Any Ascentria cases beyond that, Marchildon added, are still up in the air.

Between the state’s resettlement agencies, a total of 15 refugees, including four children, were directly affected by the ban. As resettlement is restarted, Marchildon said, families with medical needs or with security or medical screenings about to expire will be the priority.

“We’re slightly in limbo – it’s a very fluid situation,” she said. “We anticipate more communication will be coming out next week.”

In the meantime, Marchildon said her organization’s priority is to make the refugees already in New Hampshire feel at home. Just last month, six people from Myanmar were resettled in Nashua.

On top of fleeing religious and ethnic persecution, undergoing the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program vetting process, arriving in a new country and spending their first few weeks in a completely new culture, Marchildon said the executive order was misunderstood – and feared – by resettled residents.

“We had people who thought they couldn’t go outside because they feared the police would arrest them,” she said. Marchildon said people were afraid of being deported.

In response, Marchildon said Ascentria has held community meetings where newer residents were shown videos of rallies and vigils as examples of the support they have from Americans.

“It meant so much to the families,” she said.

Marchildon said phones have been ringing “off the hook” the past week, too, as local residents call Ascentria and ask how they can help.

“People want to be visible – (like at) the rally at the State House last Friday – a lot of people showed up there,” Marchildon said. “I think there’s a lot of support in New Hampshire.”

In addition to highlighting that support, Marchildon said she and others at Ascentria have been working with refugee families to address what might now be double the “survivor’s guilt” of making it to the United States: first for escaping conflict areas before other family members, and second for arriving before Trump’s executive order was put in place.

“I think resettlement is overwhelming for everybody, for every refugee – there’s just so much to process,” Marchildon said.

Ban or no ban, Marchildon said Ascentria is used to making last-minute plans – the agency usually gets two weeks’ notice for each family they need to resettle. In that time Ascentria will find housing, contact its vendors to furnish the apartment, stock the refrigerator with groceries, and make plans to help refugees get from New York; Newark; or Washington, D.C., airports to Manchester.

“That process won’t change,” Marchildon said. “As soon as we receive arrival information, that puts everything in motion.”

(Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, ereed@cmonitor.com or on Twitter
@elodie_reed.)