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Officials: St. Louis would be worse place without immigrants

Anna Crosslin is joined by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay to talk about the importance of immigrants in the region. Jan 30, 2017
Erica Hunzinger | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis leaders are decrying the Trump administration’s executive order that bars refugees from coming to the United States for 120 days. The order also prevents those from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia – from entering the U.S. for 90 days.

At a news conference Monday, Mayor Francis Slay said the order is antithetical to what the city and the United States stands for. Slay said he wants immigrants and refugees who are already in St. Louis to know they are welcome, adding that a large immigrant community is a boon for the region’s economy and culture.

“To the people of St. Louis, I’m saying these are individuals that have come here for the same reasons our ancestors came here. My ancestors – my grandfather who came here from Syria – was on the Board of Alderman and on the state constitutional congress and he paved the way for his grandson to be mayor of St. Louis.” Slay said. “Almost all St. Louisans have some kind of immigrant background and you need to reflect upon that we’re here because we have a welcoming community.”

International Institute CEO Anna Crosslin said the executive order adversely impacts people who are vulnerable, and some who are dealing with medical issues. She also said there are some humanitarian and foreign policy considerations that make the executive order a bad idea.

“If the point of this (order) is in fact to make Americans safer, this legislation may in fact make us less safe both in the United States and for Americans who are around the world,” Crosslin said.

The Trump administration has said the 120-day ban will give the Trump administration time to review the vetting process for refugees. But Crosslin said that process is stringent already and includes a 13-step security check process. Each step has a time limit, so for people who are nearly ready to fly to the U.S., Crosslin said, waiting 120 days means they will have to start the vetting process over again.

“ … (W)e can guarantee all the security clearances will have expired and those families will have to start over in the application process again,” Crosslin said. “For somebody who has a serious medical condition, let’s say breast cancer, 120 days could be a death sentence.”

Crosslin said  dozens of people in the metro area are likely to be affected by the temporary immigration ban. She added that 60 people were to arrive this week in St. Louis, but 53 of those trips were canceled.


Shula is the executive editor at St. Louis Public Radio.

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