Throughout the past two years, resettlement agencies contracted by the federal government to help place newly-arrived refugees in their new homes and lives across the country have been forced to trim down their number of employees, shutter entire offices, “or some combination of the two”—and these agencies and advocates know exactly why.
Donald Trump’s administration has slashed the number of refugees that can be admitted to the U.S. annually, from 110,000 in fiscal year 2017, to 45,000 in fiscal year 2018. Now officials, under the direction of White House aide and white supremacist Stephen Miller, are expected to slash that number down even lower, to 25,000 for fiscal year 2019.
This is having a detrimental effect—as intended—because the resettlement agencies aren’t just worried about vulnerable families getting barred from America, they’re also worried about losing entire organizations, both local and national, committed to this life-saving work.
“Once that office has closed,” said Mary Giovagnoli of Refugee Council USA, “the people with the expertise and the knowledge of working with particular groups have to find other jobs, find other work, and it’s not necessarily going to be in refugee resettlement. We start to lose the skills and capacity. The more you do that, the more you’re likely to lose the critical infrastructure.”
The dwindling numbers have already had considerable effects. Catholic Charities USA’s vice president of social policy tells The Atlantic the group has had to close eight offices so far, and expects to shut down another 14 by the end of the year. “World Relief closed seven offices around the country, two of which were on the path to resettling refugees but hadn’t opened yet.”
It’s obvious what’s happening here, and it’s intentional. From rescinding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), to terminating Temporary Protected Status, to rejecting asylum claims based on domestic and gang violence, to denying the passport applications and citizenship of Latino U.S. citizens born along the southern border, this administration is on a mission to make “whites only” the official position of the U.S.
For those still doubting, consider the fact that Trump has also nominated an anti-immigrant zealot to head a top refugee post. There’s no interest from the administration in promoting pro-refugee work—there’s only an interest in toppling it. “There has been,” said Emily Gray, World Relief’s senior vice president of U.S. ministries, “over the last two years, a systematic dismantling of the refugee-resettlement infrastructure by the administration, either directly or indirectly.”