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Young Refugees Cleared to Travel to Waiting US Foster Families

FILE - Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin, center, talks to reporters outside a federal courthouse in Seattle, May 15, 2017.

Young refugees from Somalia and Eritrea who are eagerly awaited by American foster families have been cleared to travel to the United States, Lutheran Social Services (LSS) tells VOA.

As VOA reported Friday, the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (UMR) Program has been in a state of uncertainty since the Trump administration’s travel order went into effect June 29.

The Supreme Court allowed the order to be implemented as long as travelers and refugees with “bona fide” relationships to people or businesses in the United States were admitted.

At that point, prospects looked dim for Americans waiting to foster the refugee teenagers because foster parents, were not included on the government’s list of bona fide relationships. The list was restricted to family relationships that include a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling who is already in the United States.

Children accepted into the UMR program by definition are without family either in the United States or their country of origin.

While not related by blood, aspiring foster parents undergo considerable training and security checks as well as preparations to open their homes to children they have never met, and whose names they won’t know until the child arrives.

Green light, but…

Last week, a judge in Hawaii expanded the list of permissible relationships considered “bona fide” to include a relationship with a refugee organization.

In an email early Wednesday, LSS says that as a result of the Hawaii ruling, the children in the UMR program will be traveling. “It will take some time to re-sort everything out and get all the kids who are matched across the country scheduled on flights,” an LSS spokesman wrote to VOA.

LSS, whose parent program Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, is one of two U.S. refugee organizations that serves the URM program, says it has 39 children who have been matched with foster families.

A spokesman for the State Department confirmed Wednesday the department is still working to implement the Hawaii ruling even though the U.S. government has appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.

The high court set a deadline Tuesday for briefs to be filed in the case and could rule at any time.

What the court says could affect the young refugees who are getting ready to travel. “This could also be interrupted,” LSS cautions, “by an appeal from the administration.”

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