More than 2,000 mainly Muslim refugees, already vetted and approved for travel, have arrived since the court ruling was handed down on Feb. 9th. But over the weekend, according to refugee advocate groups, the State Department has alerted Refugee Resettlement Agency cash cows that “NEW ARRIVALS WILL END ON MARCH 3rd.”
NPRvia Refugee Resettlement Watch The federal appeals court that blocked the president’s travel ban on people from seven majority-Muslim nations did not directly rule out two provisions in the executive order. Refugee resettlement agencies are scrambling to figure out what they will do if those provisions survive.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges did not address perhaps the most sweeping provision in the Trump order — the deep cuts in the numbers of refugees allowed to come to the U.S. President Trump slashed the refugee quota for fiscal year 2017 by more than half, to 50,000.
In addition, the court did not rule on a provision that would make it easier for states and cities to veto refugee placements.
“You don’t need to have a moratorium to slow the refugee resettlement program to the point where it dries up and withers on the vine,” says Bill Frelick, director of Human Rights Watch’s refugee program. “What you are going to have is a culture of saying no,” warns Frelick.
For decades, the refugee resettlement program has been a partnership between the State Department and nine private, voluntary agencies; all but two are faith-based groups. Together, they form a nationwide bureaucracy for resettlement and are a billion dollar industry, funded by taxpayers.
“We staff up for specific populations,” he explains. “Syrians need Arabic speakers, Congolese need French speakers. It takes different cultural skills. It’s difficult to change gears quickly.”
Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of the non-profit HIAS, another of the nine voluntary agencies, worries that giving governors the power to veto arrivals, one of the things Trump wants to do that the 9th Circuit ruling did not address, could unravel the resettlement program. (And with it your lucrative cash cow)
Trump has directed the Homeland Security secretary to “devise a proposal” to give state and local governments “great involvement in the process of determining the placement of refugees in their jurisdictions.”
Shifting the authority from the State Department to Homeland Security to place refugees in local communities “would be a new precedent,” says Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell.
In late 2015, after terrorist attacks in Paris, a majority of Republican governors vowed to block Syrian refugees from their states, but did not have the authority to stop the federal program.
Vice President Mike Pence, then governor of Indiana, took his opposition a step further. Pence moved to block federal funds from the refugee program in Indiana. But a federal court barred the move. That all could change under the Trump administration.
At the same time, resettlement offices may have to downsize. The funding the State Department allocates to refugee resettlement agencies is based on the number of refugees each organization resettles.
“We have people that are hired specifically as refugee case workers,” says Mark Hetfield. “If no refugees are arriving and if we are not getting funding to employ them, then we have to let them go and we lose our infrastructure to resettle refugees.” (Excellent!)
The contractors are scared to death that state and local elected officials will play a greater role in the future, thus possibly messing up their cozy relationship with the feds. You will be especially annoyed about how they say they do extensive coordination with local officials. Yes, friendly ones!