U.S. Supreme Court, the Travel Ban and the impact on refugees

  • The Supreme Court lifted the temporary injunction against Trump's ban on the entry of citizens of six majority-Muslim countries “who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” 
  • For now, if you are not a U.S. citizen but you have a relative here, have been hired by a U.S. employer or have been admitted to an American university, you can still probably get a visa. 
  • Unfortunately, the decision leaves unanswered the question of whether a refugee who is sponsored by a resettlement agency such as Catholic Charities will qualify as having a bona fide relationship with an entity in the United States.  
  • This has left refugee resettlement organizations -- and refugees -- in limbo. 

World Refugee Day

On World Refugee Day, let's pause to acknowledge that in 2016, refugee numbers worldwide reached a record high.

According to the UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, the number of refugees worldwide in 2016 was 22.5 million.  More people fled from the conflict in Syria -- 5.5 million --than any other country, but the biggest new source of refugees was what was described as "the disastrous breakdown of peace efforts" in South Sudan. Nearly 750,000 people fled South Sudan last year. 

While we seem unable to stem the tide of events that results in refugees, we can and should ask of ourselves that we welcome refugees to our country and that we educate ourselves as to their cultures so that we can assist them in building new lives.  That's not too much to ask, is it? 

One Year of Helping Refugees

Dear Friends of Refugee Disability Benefits Oregon,

We are celebrating our first year as a nonprofit!  When we opened our doors in June 2016 no one would have predicted what the Trump administration would mean for refugees and immigrants

As of June 2017, we have assisted over 85 disabled refugees and immigrants and helped most of them to win approval of their applications for benefits.  

We also have advocated for disabled refugees and immigrants in the Multnomah County Health Department, in the Oregon Legislature, in federal agencies and most recently, in federal court, where we have sued the Social Security administration on behalf of a class of special immigrants. 

We appreciate and welcome your continuing help and supportPlease consider an additional or a new donation

Look for our reinvigorated blog to appear weekly to keep you updated.   Each week we will feature a story about one of our clients that we know you will find inspiring.

Trump's anti-refugee order shot down again

The 9th Circuit, in a unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel, yesterday upheld most of the decision made earlier by a Hawaii Federal District Court.  Significantly for Oregon's refugees, the Hawaii court had temporarily prevented (and the 9th Circuit affirmed that action) not only the limits on travel from the six countries, but also the 120-day suspension of the nation’s refugee program and the 50,000-person cap on refugee admissions in 2017, down from 110,000. 

As a result, we can expect more refugees to arrive in Oregon in 2017 and that's good news for Oregon.

Breaking news - emergency stay against executive order

A federal judge in Brooklyn just issued an emergency stay against Trump's executive order banning immigration from certain predominantly Muslim countries.  The stay means that people who have landed in the US with a valid visa can remain. However, the stay is temporary and a court will have to decide whether to make it permanent at a later date—and it only affects people who have already arrived in the United States—but for now, people will not be deported because of Trump's executive order.

Trump to drastically change refugee policy

According to the New York Times, he is expected to issue an executive order as soon as Thursday.  The order would (1)  require tougher vetting of foreigners fleeing persecution;  (2) place a monthlong ban on allowing any person into the United States from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen; (3)  halt all refugee admissions for 120 days while a review of screening procedures is completed; and (4) when the refugee program resumes, the total number of refugees resettled in the United States in 2017 would be cut in half,  from 110,000 to 50,000.

There is no other term for this action than "tragic".  I think of the Iraqi, Somali and Syrian individual and families I've been honored to meet and help and of their courage, resilience and the hope they feel upon arrival.  I am ashamed to be an American in an administration that would so cruelly exclude people.  I will work vigorously against this action and hope others will as well.

-- Cheryl Coon

Kick-off celebration!

On October 29, RDBO threw a party -- and it was a wonderful time. 

We are so grateful to IRCO for its beautiful community room and its great staff who helped us make the party happen, as well as to the refugees chefs who fed us great food and all of the families and refugee supporters who filled the room!

Our celebration is coming soon!

We are celebrating the opening of Refugee Disability Benefits of Oregon at an event on October 29, from 2pm to 5pm, held at the IRCO Community Center.

The festivities will include foods from twelve different countries, cooked by refugee chefs. Our celebration is cosponsored by IRCO and would not have been possible without the wonderful help of the IRCO staff.

We are thrilled that Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Speaker of the Oregon House Tina Kotek and Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer will be coming, as well as some surprise guests!

If you'd like an invitation, please let us know!

Our Funding

Every non-profit must have a source of funding.  I think it's critical to be honest and upfront about this.  A non-profit must get some portion of its funding from grants.  That is true for RDBO.  In addition, a non-profit is allowed by law to get some portion of its funding from payment for services it renders.  That is also true for RDBO.  RDBO accepts the fees that Social Security sends any attorney or representative, which come from a successful applicant's past-due benefits.  (By law, these fees are limited to 25% or $6000, whichever is less, of past-due benefits.)  It is our hope to someday be able to decline even these fees but at the outset, we depend on these fees to keep our doors open.  Our Executive Director does not take a salary for her work. 


Announcing the formation of RDBO!

I am very pleased to announce the formation of Refugee Disability Benefits of Oregon (RDBO), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization where I will continue to represent and advocate on behalf of disabled refugees in Oregon seeking Social Security disability benefits. As of June 3, I will no longer practice at Swanson, Thomas, Coon and Newton but instead will devote 100% of my time to this effort.

Refugee Disability Benefits of Oregon will have a unique approach in which I will work closely with case managers and counselors for refugees, to ensure that initial applications for SSI and required reports are done promptly and in a manner that assists refugees in their cases. Of course I will also do everything I’ve been doing for clients at the law firm, including representation at hearings and in appeals.