The federally funded non-profits known as voluntary agencies (VOLAGs), who collectively have received more than $1 billion annually to resettle refugees, are whining now that refugee admissions, and their own associated revenues, are down dramatically during the first five months of FY 2018 under the Trump administration.
Despite a slight uptick in refugee admissions in February to 1,927, the total number of refugee admissions during the first five months of FY 2018, which began on October 1, is only 8,635, according to the State Department’s interactive website – the lowest number of refugee admissions for the first five months of a fiscal year in more than 15 years.
If the average monthly arrival rate of 1,727 during the first five months of FY 2018 continues at the same pace for the final seven months of the fiscal year, total refugee admissions for the 12 months of the full fiscal year will be under 21,000, less than half the ceiling number of 45,000 President Trump announced in September.
The nine VOLAGs (Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, the International Rescue Committee, HIAS, Church World Service, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Ethiopian Community Development Council, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (Catholic Charities), and World Relief), all of whom are almost entirely dependent on federal funding tied to the number of new refugee arrivals they resettle around the country through local affiliated agencies, are now in the midst of a cash crunch unheard of in the agency.
Consequently, they and their political allies are complaining loudly and often about both Trump’s lowered refugee ceiling admission number and the increase in the time and length of the Department of Homeland Security’s security vetting of potential refugees.
“As an organization that has dedicated itself to welcoming the stranger for over 75 years, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is deeply saddened by the Trump Administration’s decision to place additional restrictions on refugees who are seeking to be resettled in the United States,” the organization said in a statement released in October.
That sentiment has echoed throughout the refugee resettlement industry in the following months.
“The tens of thousands of refugees who have been banned during the past three months must know if they will now be able to find the safety our country offered to them in the United States,” HIAS VP for Public Affairs Melanie Nezer said in January:
“HIAS and our supporters in the American Jewish community urge the Trump Administration to restart the refugee admissions program in both a secure and humane fashion,” Nezer added.
“The past year has been a disaster for refugees and for those of us who are deeply concerned — many because of the convictions of our faith — with their well-being,” Matthew Soerens, an executive with World Relief, wrote in a New York Times op-ed later that month:
But, because of my Christian faith, I also believe that people can repent, turning from a wrong direction and moving in the right way.
It’s not too late for our leaders to examine the facts, apply the values of the faith traditions that inspire many Americans’ concern for refugees, and change course.
As the total amount of federal funding sent to VOLAGs has declined, along with the decline in refugee arrivals, local refugee resettlement offices, previously kept afloat by the taxpayers, have been forced to shut down.
“More than 20 refugee resettlement offices across the United States will close as President Trump’s administration cuts down on the costly, taxpayer-funded process of mass relocating foreign refugees across the country,” Breitbart News reported last month.
Earlier this week, refugee advocates turned to Politico for an outlet to continue their complaints.
“It seems like they’re getting bottle-necked and now nothing is moving forward,” Angie Plummer, executive director of a local refugee resettlement agency in Columbus, Ohio, told Politico in an article published earlier this week.
“These cases should have begun to travel, and what we’ve seen is just a trickle,” Danielle Grigsby, an executive with Refugee Council USA, the lobbying arm of the refugee resettlement industry, told Politico in that same article.
Former Clinton and Obama administration officials, part of the revolving door between the VOLAGs and the Department and State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, the two federal offices that manage the flow of money to the VOLAGs, are also complaining loudly about the dramatic reduction in refugee admissions in the Trump administration.
Bob Carey, a prominent critic of the recent reduction in refugee admissions by the federal government, is a prime example of the cozy revolving door the Trump administration has disrupted.
Carey spent most of his career as an executive with the International Rescue Committee, one of the nine VOLAGs supported almost exclusively by government funding. While there, he served as chair of Refugee Council USA.
In 2015, President Obama appointed Carey to head the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a post he held until he resigned in January 2017, when the Trump administration took over.
“The program isn’t being managed—or, it’s being managed to fail,” Carey told Politico earlier this week, speaking of how he perceived the Trump administration’s operation of the program.
“What couldn’t be achieved through executive orders is being achieved through administrative roadblocks or lack of will,” he added.
“If the refugee resettlement program were an assembly line in a factory, it works efficiently because every station knows what to do and how to do the handoff,” Barbara Stack, the former official in DHS’s USCIS who ran the Refugee Affairs Division for many years, told Politico.
“What the administration has done this year is break that assembly line in multiple places at the same time,” Stack said.
Refugee advocates like Soerens, Nezer, Plummer, Grigsby, Carey, and Stack, all of whom have built their careers in the refugee resettlement industry inside and outside of government based on federal funding, have apparently forgotten the simple maxim former President Obama once articulated so succinctly: elections have consequences.
President Trump ran on a platform of reducing refugee resettlement and increasing vetting for those refugees.
He won the 2016 presidential election, and he is now implementing the policies that put him in office.