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Trump upends refugee resettlement


Imagine living in a camp with thousands of people, including women and children, fleeing one of many war-torn regions in the world. Life for you is worse than homelessness; you're virtually without country.

Locally, the Catholic Family Center is a beacon of hope for refugees: resettling more than 1,100 people in Rochester last year alone. But an executive order from President Donald Trump has sent a wave of uncertainty through agencies such as CFC throughout the country.

The order stops all refugees from entering the US for 120 days and Syrians are banned indefinitely. Even though a federal appeals court has upheld a stay on Trump's order, administrators at CFC started dealing with funding and staffing uncertainties prior to the 2016 election, says Lisa Hoyt, the agency's director of refugee services.

"We're not going to shut down, but the resettlement staff will be reduced," she says. "It's sad, because we're highly regarded in the resettlement arena."

Meanwhile, refugees are still trickling in. Hoyt recently met a family of eight at the Rochester airport. Her staff will help them find housing, as well as clothing and furnishings. Staff members will also help the family enroll their children in city schools, learn English, and find employment.

The Rochester community has been extremely supportive, but she is discouraged by the anti-immigrant rhetoric on the national level, Hoyt says.

Refugees are vetted for two years or more, trying to escape the worst situations imaginable, and their single goal is to become contributing American citizens, she says.

The notion that they're here mooching off taxpayers or to commit some horrible crime is not supported by facts, Hoyt says.

"You have one interaction with my clients and you will change your mind," she says.