Number of refugees resettling in Pennsylvania on the decline

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In this file photo, a student reads in class at Lincoln Middle School in Lancaster, Pa. The Lancaster School district plans to appeal a judges recent decision over placement of refugee students in the district. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(Undated) — Pennsylvania is on track to bring in fewer than half the number of refugees expected this fiscal year.

Those expectations were based on a national refugee cap set at 45,000 people by President Donald Trump, already the lowest ceiling for arrivals set in decades.

 Since October 1st, Pennsylvania has accepted about 530 refugees.

That’s a little more than a third of the number resettled in the same window during the previous year.

 Margaret O’Sullivan, the executive director of the Nationalities Service Center, which resettles refugees in Philadelphia, says their numbers are way down, and don’t show signs of going back up.

 “We have a family of eight scheduled for arrival in April. But other than that, we have no other arrivals scheduled,” she says. “And none of us can remember a time when that was the case.”

New rules are slowing down an already lengthy vetting process.

The U.S. refugee program sputtered last year — stopping and starting due to executive orders and court cases.

When it got rolling again, a few things had changed.

One, a lot of people who were almost through the vetting process – they had to start over.

“There were about 86 refugees who were all but ready to arrive to Lancaster,” says Stephanie Gromek works for the resettlement agency Church World Service in Lancaster.

She says because of those hold ups, many of those refugees’ security clearances expired, sending them back to the beginning of the process.

That can take years.

 “It’s been a big mess, a big backlog,” she adds.

Those delays aside, new vetting protocols and staffing changes at the federal level may also be contributing to the drop. 

 

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