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Refugee resettlement agency on Trump's ban: 'Our clients are very concerned'

Catholic Charities of Buffalo planned to welcome 19 refugees to Buffalo this week, but instead those refugees are temporarily banned from entering the United States for the next four months.

An executive order signed Jan. 27 by President Trump suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days and halts admissions of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries for the next 90 days. Of the 19 arrivals that Catholic Charities expected to resettle, 13 are from the banned countries, according to Rose Caldwell, spokesperson for Catholic Charities.

The organization is one of four refugee resettlement agencies in Buffalo. It greets refugees at the airport and secures housing, clothing and other basic necessities for them in the early days of their arrival.

“The information is still unfolding or becoming more clear, so we really don’t have a lot of answers at this point as what’s going to happen over the next 120 days,” Caldwell said Monday. “We do know our clients are very concerned and those who might be expecting family members to join them are greatly concerned.”

The executive order – one of several that Trump signed during his first week in office – has sparked outrage and confusion across the world. According to multiple published reports, both refugees and immigrants from the seven listed countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen – were detained at U.S. airports over the weekend for questioning.

The White House has since said that 109 people were held of 325,000 who arrived in the U.S. from foreign countries during the first 24 hours of the ban.

U.S immigration attorney Rosanna Berardi said her corporate immigration law firm in Amherst fielded calls from several clients over the weekend. The majority of Berardi Immigration Law’s clients are Canadian due to the firm’s proximity to the border.

“What this means for the community is a hold on a whole lot of people,” Berardi said. “People are concerned. We’ve just never seen anything this sweeping in terms of the people it will impact.”

Berardi emphasized that the executive order does not permanently ban refugees or others from the seven countries. She said she expects legal challenges against the order to mount in coming days and weeks.

Calls to the region’s three other refugee resettlement agencies were not immediately returned. In total, the agencies resettled about 1,600 refugees last year, according to Caldwell.

University at Buffalo has a total of 5,000 international students, including 121 from the countries including in Trump’s ban. The overwhelming majority of those students are from Iran.

In addition, 20 UB faculty, staff and scholars are from the seven countries. According to spokesperson John DellaContrada, most of the students affected by the ban are on campus right now because they did not leave the U.S. during the university’s winter break.

DellaContrada said that one Iranian graduate student is delayed in Dubai and one post-doctoral researcher who was expected on campus today has not arrived. Two children of a graduate student are also delayed.