How executive order on immigration could impact Alaska

Published: Jan. 28, 2017 at 4:39 PM AKST
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The world is watching the White House with mixed reactions after President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily halting refugees from entering the United States.

In Alaska, the order means at least 78 refugees in the process of planning for travel into the state this year are now in a holding pattern.

Lisa Aquino, executive director of Catholic Social Services, which runs the resettlement agency for refugees in Alaska said those impacted may have to re-start the whole process of coming to the U.S. and years of more waiting.

Aquino said CSS works to assist an average of 130 refugees a year adjust to a new life and find work, but it will now be awhile before the group sees anymore.

"I think we're all working to figure that out, what we know right away is that it means there'll be no resettlement for the next 120 days, so no refugees are coming in," Aquino said.

Aquino said one family from Ukraine in process of moving forward in Alaska will have to wait even longer than they already have.

"It's a family reunification with their family who's been working for 7 years to bring him here we don't know, but they're very likely not gonna be able to come," Aquino said.

Lara Nations, an immigration attorney said she sees between 100 and 200 clients from other countries.

Nations said she doesn't recommend travel for anyone who is not considered a U.S. citizen and is planning to do so on a green card or visa.

Refugees can seek asylum, though.

"For anyone who's abroad right now, if they do manage to get on a plane to come back, definitely if they are afraid to go back to their country of origin they should make that very clear and to the officer at customs," Nations said. "They would be detained at the airport in the U.S. if they asked for asylum, but it would at least prevent them from being sent back."

While it's hard to know how many people will be impacted just yet, Nations said she also recommends anyone with concerns regarding their immigration status and rights to contact a lawyer.

Nations Law Group can be reached at 907-770-0909.