LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — From March through August, restrictions on refugee resettlement and immigration to the U.S. were enacted due to COVID-19, explains Valentina Ross, office director at Church World Service (CWS) in Lancaster.
Between those months, only refugees in a few emergency cases were allowed to enter the county. CWS Lancaster did not receive any families during that time. After restrictions were lifted, CWS Lancaster welcomed one family in August and 36 new clients in September, Ross says.
To protect against the spread of COVID-19, new arrivals quarantine for 14 days. During that time, CWS Lancaster provides them with provisions, personal protective equipment, and even computers, explains Ross.
However, hopeful refugee families now face a new hurdle. At the start of each fiscal year and after conferring with Congress, the president sets a refugee admissions goal determining how many refugees will be allowed to enter the U.S. This determination was supposed to occur by the end of September, but it has not yet been made official, says Ross.
This has led to a moratorium on arrivals that lasts through Oct. 26, Ross explains. If a Presidential Determination is not made by then, the moratorium will continue.
“We have a family scheduled to arrive on Nov. 3,” says Ross. “They have family members here eagerly waiting for them, but we don’t know if this family will be able to arrive because there is no Presidential Determination signed at this time.”
On Sept. 30, President Trump submitted a report to Congress outlining proposed refugee admissions for fiscal year 2021, according to the U.S. Department of State website. This is not the final Presidential Determination; it will require a consultation with Congress and an official approval before it goes into effect.
For refugees, “every time that there is a delay, the delay doesn’t only occur for a few days, for a few weeks, or for a few months,” says Ross. Instead, she says, it can mean years more of waiting.
Ross says she wants people to know that “refugee resettlement is enriching to our community.”
CWS Lancaster is a branch of CWS Global and has been operating in Lancaster for over 30 years. The organization’s mission is to resettle refugees and to provide support services to refugees and other immigrants, says Ross. CWS Lancaster offers volunteer opportunities and sponsorship programs for those wishing to get involved.