President Donald Trump has slashed business for refugee resettlement NGOs, forcing dozens of them to close or downsize.
The nonprofits, which rely on government contracts, depend on a steady stream of refugees to cover costs. Last month, with the number of refugees arriving in the United States at a record low, World Relief was forced to closed its office in Jacksonville, Florida, after more than 30 years.
“It’s the money,” Elaine Carson, director of World Relief Jacksonville told Vice News in a Monday report. “Our funding was per refugee, so for every refugee we got, the more money we had to be able to have staff and be here. But we don’t have the money anymore.”
“It’s heartbreaking,” Benda Boydston, the branch’s director of resettlement told The Florida Times-Union ahead of the closure.
World Relief Jacksonville once resettled some 500 of the 1,500 of the refugees who came to its corner of Florida each year, according to local media. But official said that the flow has slowed to a trickle in recent years, and they’ve only had three refugees to work with in 2019.
Though the World Relief national headquarters in Baltimore remain open, the crisis is a national one for refugee resettlement groups. A Reuters investigation found that over 20 resettlement offices closed down last year and 40 others downsized.
How Donald Trump slashed refugee resettlement
The difference is presidential. In his final years in office, Barack Obama raised the ceiling for annual refugee admissions from 85,000 to 110,000 amid the Syrian crisis. On average, the Obama administration took in just over 50,000 refugees each year.
By contrast, Trump slashed the number to just over 22,000 in fiscal year 2018, according to the Refugee Processing Center. The State Department has outlined the administration’s plans to cap the refugee resettlement at 30,000 in fiscal year 2019.
Critics of the president have characterized his stance on refugees ― and immigration in general ― as racist and inhumane. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently argued that immigrants coming to the country from South and Central America are refugees, though a small fraction are ultimately recognized as such, and that Americans owe the a moral debt.
“These people are refugees. They are fleeing political persecution. They are fleeing violence,” the New York Democrat said last month on a New York radio show. “They are fleeing social destabilization, which the United States has played a role in. We’ve played a role in it.”
“Build that wall!”
However, for Trump’s most ardent supporters, immigration restrictionism is at the core of his appeal, as was clear to anyone who has watched the crowd at one of his rallies chant, “Build that wall.” Similar forces have led many European countries to shut their doors to asylum seekers.
Conservative experts and politicians, meanwhile, have offered policy arguments on behalf of Trump’s policies. Last month, Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, noted that the immigration courts are already backlogged by months and years.
“We let everybody in, the courts are backlogged, these cases are never being heard. We don’t even know where these people are,” he explained on the podcast of Republican Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin.
“[According to] the latest figures I have [from the] Justice Department, we’ve got a million cases backlogged in the immigration courts. … About 20,000 were adjudicated in 2018 … 90 percent were not granted asylum.”