Refugee resettlement agencies receive funding based on the number of people they anticipate resettling, so the uncertainty around President Trump’s travel ban has serious fiscal consequences.
Jeff Thielman is the CEO of the International Institute of New England, a resettlement agency working in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. His agency expects eight refugees to arrive by March 28.
“It means that we have not filled a number of positions that were open in all three of our offices in the resettlement area,” he said. “It also means that we may have to make further reductions. We’re going to make those decisions in the next few weeks.”
Ascentria Care Alliance, a resettlement agency based in Worcester and operating in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire, announced Monday that as a result of Trump’s travel ban it had laid off or reduced hours for 14 employees.
“Although the orders have been stayed, even the most recent one, we are no longer receiving any refugees in the pipeline and we don’t anticipate receiving any more refugees until maybe four to six months out at the earliest,” said Jodie Justofin, Ascentria’s vice president of communications.
For the time being, Justofin says the organization will focus on supporting refugees already resettled in New England.
Trump’s revised executive order called for a 120-day suspension of the country’s refugee program, among other restrictions. The order was blocked by two federal judges the day before it was set to go into effect.
Despite that temporary freeze, the finances of resettlement agencies are still unstable. But a return to pre-Trump quotas could boost their coffers.
Before he left office, President Obama capped the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. during the current fiscal year at 110,000. Resettlement agencies engineered their budgets through September based on those projections.
President Trump cut that cap on refugees to 50,000. That’s an action within the powers of the executive. But since Trump’s cap is part of an executive order, the constitutionality of which is under question, Boston immigration attorney Kerry Doyle says the quota may be challenged in the courts.
“While the president does have broad authority to set the fiscal numbers, because it’s caught up in a lot of the other problems with this executive order being potentially unconstitutional, the question is whether the 50,000 is also stayed,” Doyle said.
State Department officials would not confirm that Trump’s refugee cap remains in tact given the freeze on the travel ban.
Justofin, of Ascentria Care Alliance, says the group has no reason to be optimistic about welcoming more refugees in the near future. But she says Ascentria’s resettlement program will ramp up if additional refugees are allowed into the country.