Refugees Awaiting Family in New York Face Uncertainty, Fear After Trump’s Executive Order


The first thing Charlotte Gosso does after she wakes up in her small, dark apartment is make breakfast for her two sons — Ephraim, who is 10, and Guy, who is 22, with a steady smile and a disability that will restrict him to his bed for the rest of his life.

That takes a little while. Then she might straighten up the apartment, or watch some TV. Then she prays.

Gosso came to Rochester in December from the Côte d’Ivoire via a refugee camp in Ghana; she was the first Ivoirian refugee here. Her prayers go to her country and her relatives there, the only ones she has.

There are only a handful of Ivoirians in Rochester, and it seems unlikely any more will be arriving.

President Trump signed an executive order Friday instituting a temporary ban on all refugee arrivals, fulfilling a campaign promise. Trump can point to terrorism and cite national security concerns as reasons for such actions. Federal law allows a president to bar entry to any immigrant “or any class” of immigrants if the president deems them “detrimental to the interests of the United States, and to “impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate,” according to the law.

Most refugees in 2016 came to the U.S. from countries that are at war or under the control of repressive governments.

But Trump’s order puts the refugee agency in Rochester into an uneasy holding pattern.

There is no indication that people who are here already will have their status changed, but nearly every new arrival has stories of friends or family in their home country who hoped to join them.

Gosso thinks of a woman she knew in the refugee camp in Ghana. It would take Gosso up to three days to travel to Accra, the capital, for bureaucratic matters, and there was no one to watch Guy while she was gone. The woman would help her, and give her some rice when she needed it to feed her sons.

The woman and her husband would like to come to the United States, and Gosso would welcome them. She speaks only French and is confined to her small apartment unless someone can help her with Guy.

Lisa Hoyt, director of the Catholic Family Center’s Refugee, Immigration & Language Services Department, described another case. A mother and seven children were supposed to arrive in Rochester on Tuesday. The family is Somali but is living in a refugee camp in Kenya.

The oldest of the children is 19. The youngest is 2. Their new life here is waiting. But someone in the group got sick, postponing their travel.

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SOURCE: USA Today; Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle, Brian Sharp and Justin Murphy