Idaho refugee agencies feel impacts from Trump immigration executive order

Posted at 10:20 PM, Jan 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-31 00:20:01-05

Idaho is home to several refugee resettlement agencies and thousands of immigrants from all over the world. Those agencies are now seeing the effects up close following Trump's latest executive order halting refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days.

The International Rescue Committee in Boise works with refugees who've arrived as long as ten years ago and as recently as last week, and now more than ever they're focused on providing a safe and comforting place to live for those who call Idaho home.

"There's a lot that's really unclear right now," IRC executive director Julianne Donnelly Tzul said. "It is very hard to see someone you know to be an incredible human being share that they fear for their safety here in this incredibly privileged and beautiful home that we have, where they're supposed to be safe." 

Right now, Donnelly Tzul says they're unsure if the three families who were expected to arrive in Boise next week will make it, leaving family members oceans apart. 

"A lot of the refugees who are scheduled to come to Boise in the next few weeks are people whose brothers, sisters, parents and spouses are already here and they were planning on reuniting with them," Donnelly Tzul said. "There's certainly a lot of fear in the community that they are not welcome."

Donnelly Tzul says she's seen first hand those quickly and concretely impacted by President Trump's latest immigration executive order, creating a sense of panic among refugees in the Treasure Valley,  worried for the future of immigration law in the U.S.

"I was talking to some parents, and the 9-year-old popped up out of nowhere and said, 'are we going to get deported tomorrow?'" Donnelly Tzul said. "Refugees bring to our community just incredible strength, resilience of spirit, diversity of experience, knowledge of world history; really a richness to our community. We actually have a lot in common if we only came a couple weeks ago or our family came five generations ago."

While some refugees have expressed concerns they're no longer welcome in the U.S., Julianne says the recent support from Idahoans has made a world of difference.

"Writing handmade cards to refugees, telling them they're welcome, or making their voices known at the airport," Donnelly Tzul said, "so many people are coming out to say, 'this is not the value of our community, the value of our community is compassion."