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Some are claiming that Trump’s proposed 120-suspension of the refugee resettlement program is nothing more than a harmless “pause”. But in reality, any pauses to the program will do enormous harm to vulnerable refugees.
The vetting process includes a series of time-bound background checks, interviews, and medical screenings, all of which will expire during the 120-day period, forcing families who have gone through years of waiting to go back to the end of the line.
The tiny percentage of refugees who have passed through the world’s most stringent vetting process do not have the luxury of time: a delay of months or even years could make the difference between life and death.
If you want to know what waiting a few more months will cost families, ask Abed and Reema Hassan.
Abed, Reema, and their five children fled Syria in 2013, leaving behind their friends, family, and the beloved country they saw falling apart. They traveled to Jordan, where Abed worked nights at a coffee shop, earning just $310 a month that mostly went to rent for the family’s tiny one-bedroom apartment. And Reema took care of the children, including two young sons with vision and health problems, and baby Mohammed who was born with a serious heart defect.
Then the family was handed an impossible choice: baby Mohammed’s heart condition required immediate surgery which cost about $14,000 – which the family simply couldn’t afford.
Because of the severity of Mohammed’s condition, the family was selected for resettlement in the US – an incredible strike of good fortune since only one percent of refugees globally are resettled into a new country.
But despite this new hope, the vetting process didn’t move fast enough. Just a few days after his first birthday in 2015, Mohammed’s heart stopped. Abed and Reema lost their precious baby boy.
While the Hassan family’s story is tragic, it will surely repeat itself as families who’ve already been safely vetted have to wait even longer to be resettled. The new refugee ban will surely cost lives.