As the news of the presidential cap on U.S. refugee admissions for next year sets in and the low number of 30,000 ripples through the cycles, many are asking the obvious questions: What will be the impact on the agencies who resettle refugees, and will the U.S. refugee resettlement system as we know it survive these next few years?
The answer, of course, is that we aren’t sure yet. Refugee resettlement programs still haven’t heard the impact of policy decisions nationwide, as all programs have been placed in a 5th quarter carrying over funds from the last year’s budget cycle. The reassignment of Scott Lloyd as the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement and on-going policy changes around asylum are what agencies are hearing from D.C.
There are approximately 350 local Resettlement Agencies across 47 states who provide almost identical services to refugees within 8 months after arriving in the country. These agencies are subcontracted under one of 9 national Voluntary Agencies (or VOLAGS), and the services include everything from establishing housing and setting up furniture, assisting with family reunification paperwork, picking up refugees from the airport, to assisting with access to medical, mental health, language classes and other resources needed to become employed and integrated into their new communities. Despite facing the enormous barriers of relocation, loss and war, with the support of resettlement agencies, most refugees are employed within 8 months after arriving to the U.S., and are on their way towards thriving.
With another year of refugee arrival numbers cut, many resettlement agencies won’t be able to continue this vital support. Rumors include the Department of State plans to cut full affiliate lines, meaning there will no longer be 9 VOLAGS holding on-going federal contracts, and that there will be a push for no more than 2 resettlement agencies per city. Though these are rumors, we must prepare for the worst. Resettlement agencies need all the help they can get on the local level, and nationally those in positions of power need to hear from us.