Donald Trump’s ongoing effort to enact his administration’s legally dubious travel ban has been done largely in the name of preventing terrorism and protecting American families. But one lesser-known effect of the ban has been to prevent those families from forming in the first place—by blocking orphaned refugees from entering the United States to live with foster families.
Last year, just over 2oo “unaccompanied minor refugees” came to the U.S. as part of a decades-old program that’s helped more than 6,000 children—largely from Congo, Eritrea, Afghanistan, and Burma—move to America since the 1980s. But when the Supreme Court allowed most of the president’s travel ban to take effect in mid-July, so too did a provision to block the program, stranding some 100 child refugees who had already been matched with American foster families.
“These are kids on their own and struggling to survive,” Elizabeth Foydel, policy counsel with the International Refugee Assistance Project, told CBS News.
“How long do you feel comfortable with your child not having a caregiver?” Foydel continued. “Trying to manage for themselves?”
Orphaned refugee children who were previously eligible to enter the U.S. to live with American foster parents already faced a strenuous journey to get here. First they needed be referred to an American refugee agency by United Nations staff and then, after extensive vetting and security screenings, were still left to be matched with an American family.
Now, with Trump’s travel ban in place for the time being, these children’s futures—as well as the futures of those families waiting to welcome them to their new homes—are in agonizing limbo.
“I was thinking about literally the millions of children who have no family, have no home, who are completely alone,” Irene Stevenson, one such hopeful foster parent, told The Washington Post. “I thought, ‘This is stupid. I have a home. I can do this.”
“If you’re a 17-year-old girl refugee in Kenya without any living relatives, you don’t have any avenues to try to build something,” she also said. “Building roadblocks seems crazy. It’s wrong.”
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the travel ban case starting in October.