Trump tells State Department to close dozens of refugee centers

Sat, 23 Dec 2017 20:35:28 +0000


Reuters reports, Dec. 21, 2017, that at a December 1 meeting in Washington, State Department officials told representatives from nine major refugee agencies that the number of refugee centers will be sharply pared back in 2018 as President Trump cuts the number of refugees allowed into the United States.

Since taking office in January, President Trump has moved to sharply reduce refugee admissions to the United States, because of national security concerns and a belief that money could be better spent resettling people closer to their original homes. He first slashed the 2017 U.S. refugee cap to 50,000 from the 110,000 ceiling set by Obama. In September, Trump announced a cap of 45,000 for 2018, the lowest number since the modern U.S. refugee program was established in 1980.

Refugee resettlement in the United States is handled by nine non-profit agencies, including religious agencies, which receive millions of taxpayer dollars from the federal government for their refugee work. They partner with, or oversee, hundreds of local “resettlement offices” in nearly every state that help new arrivals with basic tasks like enrolling children in school, arranging doctors’ visits and applying for Social Security cards and other documents. See:

There are about 300 resettlement offices spread across 49 states. Offices that handle fewer than 100 refugees in fiscal year 2018 will no longer be authorized to resettle new arrivals, which means many of them will have to close. Refugee advocates estimate several dozen offices are at risk, though shuttering plans will not be finalized until next year.

A State Department official said the agency is looking to “reduce costs and simplify management structures to help the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program run in a way that is fiscally responsible and sustainable.” The Trump administration has said it wants refugees to assimilate quickly, both to promote national security and so that they can become self-sufficient.

But refugee advocates say the closure of local offices will undermine that goal. They say the resettlement offices play a crucial role in helping newcomers traumatized from having fled conflict or persecution. Even if no new refugees are resettled by the offices they still have an obligation to help those already here.

Robert Carey, who directed the Office of Refugee Resettlement under Obama, says if refugees lose access to “services to help them navigate the processes of registering for school, and English classes and finding a job, that will mean that it will take longer for them to navigate life in the United States and contribute to our economy.”

Holly Johnson, Tennessee’s refugee coordinator, said the resettlement office in Chattanooga, Tennessee is at risk of shutting down because it is only projected to receive about 85 refugees next year. Johnson insists that “Small doesn’t necessarily mean weak or subpar. They spend more time with folks, they have really well-established connections to the community, so people feel welcomed, which really helps.” Blah, blah, blah.

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