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Kentucky faith leaders urge acceptance of refugees

Dozens of faith leaders from Kentucky are among the thousands of signatories of a letter to the government, demanding support for refugee resettlement. Drafted by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, the letter asks the Trump Administration to acknowledge the "urgent moral responsibility to receive refugees and asylum seekers who are in dire need of safety."

It seems likely that the letter has not been heeded by our nation's new president. Since taking office, Mr. Trump has made it more difficult for foreigners to travel to the U.S. Likewise, his administration has granted broader authority for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to detain and deport undocumented individuals who are already here.

Many who have sought protection in the U.S. now wonder if they'll be asked to leave. 

How many refugees are in the U.S.?

More than 3 million refugees have entered the U.S. in the last four decades, according to the Pew Research center. The number allowed to come in varies from year to year. In 2002 and 2003, for example - the years immediately following 9/11 - we let in fewer than 30,000 refugees. In 2016, nearly 85,000 were permitted entry. This year, we're on pace to accept roughly 110,000 refugees.

Yet many experts expect those numbers to drop sharply. Days after being sworn in, Trump closed the U.S. borders to asylum-seekers from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Syria. Meanwhile, federal agents have begun to reinvestigate refugees from the middle-east who are already here. They have also accelerated their deportation of immigrants - including some here legally on Visas - from Mexico and Central America.

What can be done?

For those seeking to protect their rights, avoid ICE agents, or naturalize and receive full citizenship privileges, the most effective step will be to consult with an immigration attorney. An experienced lawyer will know how to work with government institutions and maximize one's chances of success.

Meantime, individuals can take steps to assert their rights. The ACLU has published a series of tips for immigrants to make sure their rights are not violated. These include:

  • Asking ICE agents what their intentions are
  • Requesting a translator if one is necessary
  • Refusing ICE agents' requests to search one's home or car unless they have a warrant signed by a judge
  • Exercise your right to remain silent
  • Do not lie or show false documents

The beginning days of any new government administration are uncertain. With this in mind, it is important to understand how best to preserve your interests and rights.

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