Proposal to cut refugee program threatens to impact Lancaster


CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker is thankful that the President did not suggest to eliminate the refugee program.

LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) – Inside the Church World Service offices on West King Street, there are photos of refugees the agency has helped to get settled.

The director of the office, Sheila Mastropietro, has stories of families split among countries and waiting to be reunited.

“There is a widowed older Somali woman, she’s not in good health,” Mastropietro said. “She’s waiting for her adult children to join her.”

Action taken this past week by President Donald Trump threatens the chance that family will ever get back together.

The President has proposed allowing 18,000 refugees in the United States next year. That’s about half of what the country allowed last year. It’s also the lowest number of refugees the U.S. has allowed in the past 40 years.

“Initially, I thought at least the program has not zeroed out,” Mastropietro said. “On further observation on who is admitted in the 18,000 really narrows down who can come in.”

These are the requirements for people who seek refuge in America under Trump’s latest presidential determination:

  • 4,500 slots for Iraqi people who worked for the U.S. military.
  • 1,500 slots for people from Central America like Honduras and Guatemala.
  • 5,000 slots for people fleeing religious persecution.
  • 7,500 slots for people who do not fall into otherwise defined categories.

Mastropietro says the impact of the proposal could be felt in Lancaster and Church World Service for years to come.

“We try to do what we can,” she said, “but we really don’t have an influence on who gets to come to our cities. It’s totally up to the President.”

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, who represents Lancaster, said he is thankful the President did not suggest eliminating the refugee program.

Smucker added: “The United States has always been and will always remain the most generous nation in the world when it comes to welcoming those in need of humanitarian protection, including refugees, asylees, and victims of trafficking. I support the Trump administration’s focus on addressing the ongoing crisis at the southern border, reducing a staggering asylum backlog that unfairly delays relief for those with meritorious claims, and completing more overall requests from families and people. I will continue my serious bipartisan conversations to find solutions addressing some of our biggest issues with our immigration system.”

The proposal requires Trump to consult with Congress before signing it, so Church World Service is asking Lancaster residents to write, tweet and call their federal officials: Smucker, Sen. Pat Toomey, and Sen. Bob Casey.

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