Study: Harrisonburg among most impacted by Trump's immigration order

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - As President Donald Trump's executive order limiting refugee immigration remains in legal limbo, a recent study is highlighting the areas nationwide that would be impacted the most.

Among the top ten places nationwide with the highest share of refugees, according to this study by the Brookings Institution, was the Harrisonburg Metropolitan Area — which includes the Friendly City and surrounding Rockingham County.

According to that study, 7.2 people per 1000 in the area are from the countries covered in the immigration executive order.

The Harrisonburg Immigration and Refugee office, also called CWS, has resettled and incorporated immigrants from countries around the world into the area for over two decades.

Community Program Coordinator Rebecca Sprague said while in place, the temporary travel ban had a noticeable impact.

"I know of several people who traveled back to Africa to visit family and are were now stuck there and couldn't get back," said Sprague.

But a federal judge has halted the executive order for the time being, a decision upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"It's eased the tension for the people trapped overseas. Now they're trying to return while they still can," said Sprague. "I know a Kurdish family where the father has a green card, is a legal permanent resident, he'll be a citizen soon and his kids were born here. He went to visit family in the Middle East. [...] Now he's coming back quickly while he still can because he has a job, family here and things he needs to attend to."

Sprague said she wasn't surprised to hear the Harrisonburg area was among the top in the nation when measuring refugee population, adding the Central Shenandoah Valley has an appeal to those looking to resettle.

"They can come here in an area that has diverse restaurants, people from all over the world from different religions and find community that is safe and welcoming and accepting," said Sprague.

The Brookings Institute also cites James Madison University attracting "highly-qualified faculty and students from those countries" as another factor.

Sprague said most refugees resettled by CWS in Harrisonburg were originally from Iraq.

Below is the Brooking Institute's list of the top ten U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest shares of residents from the seven Muslim-majority countries most impacted by Trump's order:

1. Detroit, Mich.
2. Modesta, Calif.
3. Los Angeles, Calif.
4. San Diego, Calif.
5. Rochester, Minn.
6. St. Cloud, Minn.
7. San Jose, Calif.
8. Fargo, N.D.-Minn.
9. Harrisonburg, Va.
10. Lincoln, Neb.

Wondering what the Brookings Institute is? Click here to find out.