A blog of the Jacob's Well Kerygma Sphere.

Refugees: What the KS executive order could mean + how to help

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We wanted to provide a quick explainer on Governor Brownback of Kansas’s executive order, as varying news reports have caused some confusion. On Monday, Governor Brownback and governors of 25 more states proclaimed that their states would refuse to resettle Syrian refugees in wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris. The orders came as a response after suspected reports that one or more of the attackers entered France under the guise of a refugee – reports that have since been discredited.

Yesterday we did some digging to try to bring some clarity on the legality of Brownback’s order and what it means for refugee services programs in Kansas. Here are a few things we learned:

  • Refugee resettlement is guided by Federal Law and implemented by non-profit organizations.

  • A state cannot prevent refugees from entering its borders, because there are no border checks once someone has entered the United States.

  • However, many non-profits receive Kansas state funding through a series of grants distributed by the Department for Children and Families (DCF).

  • These grants fund a significant percentage of refugee resettlement programs for organizations like Catholic Charities which settles hundreds of refugees each year in Wyandotte County, KS. The program assists families in finding safe housing, getting children into school, providing language services and helping adults find jobs.

  • The governor does have the power to withhold those grants, and that is the means by which he can “refuse” Syrian refugees.

  • The executive order states that, effective immediately, Kansas-based organizations are prohibited from using any state funds to assist Syrian families, and doing so puts that funding at risk. Loss of this funding could put a strain on the entire program, which assists hundreds of refugees from around the world.

  • Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has kept Missouri on the list of accepting refugees from any nation as of the time of this post on November 19. If this remains to be the case, then programs run through organizations like Jewish Vocational Services, which works on the Missouri side of Kansas City, will still be able to place Syrians in the Kansas City area.

Here’s a more in-depth explanation from Lawrence Journal World on the legal issues related to this decision >

So, what do we do in the meantime? Here are two ideas:

  • Email or call state representatives and senators and tell them what you want them to do as their constituent. Hit up your state’s Representative or Senate website to easily find the politician for your region and contact them. Just a brief note is more helpful than you think.

  • Show encouragement and support to local refugees through Catholic Charities. They’re creating a collage wall in their KCK office in a location that refugees regular see, to show that the Kansas City community loves and welcomes them. You can just send a quick one-liner via email or go all out by mailing and handwritten note or a kid drawing. Participate by sending your message in an email to rpollock@catholiccharitiesks.org, inbox Catholic Charities on Facebook, or send mail to 2220 Central Ave. KCK 66102.

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