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Our Missing Refugee Neighbors

A letter from our Executive Director Cole Varga regarding the latest Executive Order.

On January 30th of this year, one of our Syrian refugee families was anticipating the arrival of their relatives here in Indianapolis through the refugee program. These relatives in Jordan were packing their belongings and saying their goodbyes. However, with the signing of an Executive Order just a few days before their travel date, they were told they could no longer travel to the United States. Their flight was canceled.

This family who was promised a new life in freedom and safety in Indianapolis is now stuck in Jordan living with relatives because they have nowhere else to go. America broke its promise. Eleven months later, it is still unclear if these refugees will ever be reunited with the rest of their family in Indianapolis. Unfortunately, this has been the constant, uncertain reality for many refugee families in Indy and across the globe. In total, the U.S. has closed the door on roughly 56,000 refugees in 2017.

President Trump’s latest Executive Order continues in this same thread for the near future. Attempting to shroud discrimination under the cover of “national security” does not make us safer – it diminishes our nation and our principles. Despite the Order’s stated goal of resuming the program, the administration continues to push down harder on refugee resettlement by turning away more and more vulnerable people in their time of need. Back in September, the administration established a record low goal for U.S. refugee admissions in 2018 – only 45,000 nationally. With the addition of October’s Executive Order, the effect will be a further slashing of refugee arrivals to the U.S. and an even longer wait for refugees from the 11 countries, including Syria.

This is not the time to second guess America’s humanitarian efforts. The UN estimates there are 22.5 million refugees globally, not to mention the additional 589,000 Rohingya refugees who have been forced to flee Burma in recent months.

The sabotaging of the refugee resettlement program at the federal level has had a ripple effect for local resettlement organizations like Exodus and the Indianapolis community. We will welcome even fewer refugees this year. Hundreds of your refugee neighbors – who should be eating dinner with you, whose kids should be attending school with yours, who should be your co-workers – are missing from our community.

Exodus will continue to push back on the administration’s slow dismantling of the national refugee program, while making sure we honor our commitments to the refugees who already call Indianapolis home. And though the number of refugees joining our community will be limited in the coming years, we will unreservedly continue to offer a warm welcome to those resilient individuals and families that are provided the opportunity to call Indianapolis home.


– Cole Varga, Executive Director