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New Haven Agency Looks To Ease Fears, Assure Safety Of Refugee Families

Ryan Caron King
IRIS Executive Director Chris George speaks at a candlelight vigil in New Haven on Sunday night. He says one Syrian family of five made it to Connecticut less than a day before President Donald Trump's order barring Syrian refugees from the United States.

Plans for at least a dozen refugee families scheduled to arrive in New Haven in the next few weeks have been thrown into question after President Donald Trump announced his new executive order on immigration. 

The move has also left state refugee resettlement organizations fielding questions from resettled families about their future and safety.

Under the new order, Syrian refugees are barred indefinitely from entering the United States. One Syrian family of five made it to Connecticut less than a day before the order was released.

Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services -- or IRIS -- was expecting more families to arrive in New Haven. Now the organization is just trying to ease fears.

Executive Director Chris George said all of their clients are expressing concern.

"They’re worried about the specifics of this executive order," George said. "You know: what does it mean for my mother; what does it mean for our close friends; what does it mean for my wife; what does it mean for my husband? All these people were in the process. They also are concerned about what these executive orders symbolize."

George said the organization is all in favor of protecting the country, and acknowledges legitimate security concerns. But he questioned the motives.

"It looks like security’s being used for some other agenda here," George said. "That really bothers us -- all of us who believe that persecuted people from all over the world need to be welcomed to this country. They make this country strong. They diversify us. In the process of saving their lives, they enrich ours."

George said IRIS resettled 530 refugees last year. He said that about 70 percent of their caseload is Syrian.

Lori Connecticut Public's Morning Edition host.
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