A young girl hangs from a chair, swinging her legs and watching a fidget spinner spiral around her small finger. A couple huddles together, sifting through paperwork. A woman quietly speaks into her cellphone. A new life in America begins with quotidian routine here in this waiting room.
But the placid, ordinary moment at the International Rescue Committee’s office in Baltimore is vanishing in some areas of the country: Deep cuts by the Trump administration in the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. annually has forced the IRC and eight other nonprofits that help those fleeing war, famine, and persecution to cut staff and close offices.
“There has been, over the last two years, a systematic dismantling of the refugee-resettlement infrastructure by the administration, either directly or indirectly,” said Emily Gray, the senior vice president of U.S. ministries at World Relief, one of the nine agencies.
“Every year,” added Melanie Nezer, the senior vice president of public affairs at HIAS (formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), another of the nine, “we have to plan based on the number the administration sets and imagine trying to run any program where you’re expecting 45,000 [refugees] and only 20,000 arrived.”
The numbers are even more stark than that: President Barack Obama raised the ceiling for refugee admissions in his final two years in office from 85,000 in fiscal year 2016 to 110,000 in fiscal year 2017 amid the Syrian crisis, which was still a pittance in a world in which the United Nations refugee agency estimates that there are nearly 20 million refugees. The Trump administration set a new cap for refugee resettlement for fiscal year 2018 at 45,000 but, less than 30 days from the end of the fiscal year, has resettled only around 20,000, according to figures from the Refugee Processing Center.
Now Donald Trump is expected to either maintain that cap or lower it in the coming fiscal year, which begins October 1, and cut one or more agencies from the resettlement process altogether—all of which could lead to the collapse of a system built over many years to support the world’s most vulnerable people. [Continue reading…]