The Trump administration’s decision to significantly reduce refugee admissions to the United States is causing layoffs at refugee resettlement agencies across the United States, according to Reuters, with nearly two dozen offices expected to close.
The U.S. State Department’s plan — which, as Reuters reported, still needs final approval — has ordered at least 20 refugee resettlement agencies to shut down across the country and called for 40 others to scale back operations. The decision draws fresh attention to President Donald Trump’s decision to cut back the annual refugee admissions from the 110,000 cap set by his predecessor to 45,000 for the 2018 fiscal year. For the State Department, the cut means the country no longer needs all 324 resettlement offices in operation by the 2017 fiscal year, the publication noted, detailing plans drawn up from a December 1, 2017 meeting between State Department officials and refugee agency representatives.
“The changes will consolidate smaller affiliates, reduce costs and simplify management structures to help the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program run in a way that is fiscally responsible and sustainable in the long term,” State Department spokeswoman Cheryl Harris told Reuters.
The proposed closures and cutbacks will affect some places with multiple offices in one city, but the plan also includes closures of Louisiana’s only two resettlement offices and a sharp scaling back of the only office in Hawaii, the publication noted. Plans to open 11 new offices in Washington, New Mexico, and Indiana will not happen in 2018.
Last year, after Trump issued an executive order to temporarily halt refugees from entering the country, refugee resettlement agencies began gearing up to shut down various offices. World Relief announced at the time that it would close offices in Idaho, Ohio, Florida, Tennessee, and Maryland — five locations that together resettled 25,000 refugees, Christianity Today previously reported. The Trump administration prevented refugee resettlement on the claim of potential terrorist threats.
Refugees can access resettlement centers for up to five years after they arrive, so the State Department’s decision will have a large impact. For years, refugee resettlement agencies ministered to newly-arrived people adjusting to American culture — which in a small, ironic way is a rallying point of conservatives who paint immigrants as too foreign.
Refugee resettlement agencies do a lot. Officers help refugees navigate the health care system, the banking system, and other points of American life that may prove burdensome when one first arrives in the country. As one example, the International Rescue Committee — one of the nine resettlement agencies with contracts with the government — has four offices with anywhere between 12 and 15 financial coaches to help refugees learn “financial capability” so they will be less likely to default on their loans.
“The population doesn’t go away when you turn off the spigot,” Robert Carey, who directed the Office of Refugee Resettlement under President Barack Obama, told Reuters. “If the intent is really to have people integrate into society then doing this is counter to that intent.”
The United States has taken in only 1,385 refugees in January, compared to 6,777 for the same month last year, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, the global refugee crisis persists. Officials have documented at least 401 deaths in the Mediterranean Sea since the start of 2018 as more people undertake deadly and irregular means to get to Europe. About 5.5 million Syrians have sought refuge in host countries after a civil war broke out in 2011. Jordan, one of the major host countries, registered 655,624 Syrian refugees by the end of December 2017. People are similarly still fleeing the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mynamar, Afghanistan, and countless other countries in hopes of seeking safety.