Trump order forces refugee resettlement group to lay off 140 staff

Refugees from Myanmar arrive in Spokane, Wash. (Chad Nelson/World Relief Spokane/flickr)

President Donald Trump’s executive order delaying and cutting refugee resettlement is affecting refugee nonprofits.

Aid group World Relief let go of at least 140 staffers this week. It is also closing five offices in the U.S. – all because of the Trump administration’s decision to significantly reduce the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. this year.

“We fully intend to continue the critical work of resettling refugees and serving other immigrants in the communities where we serve throughout the United States,” World Relief CEO Tim Breene said in a statement.

“The unfortunate truth is that given the unprecedented nature of the global refugee crisis, there are simply more people than ever that need our support and our compassion. We are redoubling our efforts to find solutions to serve displaced peoples in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and elsewhere around the globe. We urge the Trump Administration to renew and reinvigorate efforts to work together with the global humanitarian community to meet this urgent crisis head on.”

Refugee resettlement agencies based their work on the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. each year. The Obama administration set the resettlement cap at 110,000 refugees for 2017. Trump halved that total to 50,000 at the end of January – leaving agencies with twice as many staff members and programs needed to aid refugees. World Relief’s 20 percent staffing cut is tied to the sudden drop.

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“It is unfortunate that 60,000 people that had hopes and dreams for a peaceful life and having a chance to live in the U.S. are not given that chance anymore,” World Relief Spokeswoman Christina Klinepeter told Humanosphere. “There are people who sold all of their belong because they expected to get on a plane the next day who had to try and buy back their stuff.”

Trump also issued an executive order indefinitely banning the resettlement of Syrian refugees and putting a 120-day hold on all resettlements. The order, which also banned travel for people from seven countries, was stayed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 9.

More than 2,000 refugees arrived since the ruling, but confusion remains over the long-term impact. The Trump administration withdrew its appeal and pledged to issue a new executive order next week that will deal with immigration and refugees. All indications point to a renewed effort to limit the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. – a decision that concerns refugee groups.

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The five World Relief offices that will close – located in Boise, Idaho; Columbus, Ohio; Miami; Nashville, Tenn.; and Glen Burnie, Md. – resettled more than 25,000 refugees over four decades, according to the group. Klinepeter said World Relief would continue support for recently resettled refugees in the five cities so they are not suddenly left on their own.

The government provides support to refugees for their first three months in the U.S. Resettlement agencies help families adjust to the U.S., provide English classes, job training and other services that ensure they can make it on their own.

“We will continue to resettle refugees as they come to U.S. and we will continue providing them the services that will help them become self-sufficient as quickly as possible,” said Klinepeter.

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.