Refugee program celebrated in the Lowcountry amid changes to federal policy

Monday Lutheran Services celebrated the resettlement of five refugee families in the Lowcountry.  The celebration comes in the same week President Donald Trump is expected to sign a new refugee and immigration executive order.

Since January, Lutheran Services Carolinas resettled 20 people, four families from Congo and one from Iraq.

The ceremony Monday morning at St. Matthews on King Street was a chance to celebrate the program’s success since opening the Charleston office earlier this year.

Speaking at the event, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said he wanted Charleston to be hospitable to those in need around the world.

Lutheran Services is one of nine organizations in the US who work with the federal government to resettle refugees. The US was expected to accept 110,000 refugees this year, but the President backed up the program to 50,000.  Over the remainder of the fiscal year, a maximum of 14,000 more refugees could enter the U.S. if the lower refugee admissions ceiling ordered by Trump remains in effect, according to the Pew Research Center.

There are still a lot of unknowns about resettling refugees in the US and when more families would come to the Lowcountry.   Organizers say cases have been identified,  but no travel plans have been scheduled.

Lutheran Services Carolinas also offers programs for foster children, people with disabilities, and veterans in our community.

President Trump initially planned to sign the new order last week, but spokesman Sean Spicer said the president was holding off “to make sure that when we execute this, it’s done in a manner that’s flawless.”

In all, 6,095 refugees entered the U.S. during Trump’s first month in office (Jan. 21 to Feb. 17), a period that includes the week before he issued the travel order. Among these refugees, a total of 2,778 were Muslims (46%) and 2,610 are Christians (43%), according to a report from the Pew Research Center.

Although the courts have reversed some parts of  President Trump’s executive order, the president’s decision to lower the maximum number of refugees remains in effect. The State Department has alerted resettlement agencies that refugee arrivals will soon end, and refugee resettlement agencies have begun laying off staff, according to the Pew Research Center.

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