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Refugee Agency World Relief Lays Off Workers In Response To Trump


As we heard a few moments ago, President Trump says he will issue a new immigration order next week. A federal court had blocked most of the old executive order that Trump signed last month. That order temporarily banned the admission of new refugees. The order also limited the overall number of refugees the U.S. will accept this year, and that part still holds. NPR's Tom Gjelten says it's already led at least one refugee agency to lay off its staff.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: The work of resettling refugees in this country is mostly carried out by faith-based groups. The effort is funded in part by per-refugee grants from the State Department. One-hundred-ten-thousand refugees were expected this year, and the resettlement agencies budgeted accordingly. Trump's executive order cut that to 50,000, so suddenly a lot less funding is available.

World Relief, an evangelical group, just lost about $11 million in anticipated grants. As a result, the organization has to lay off 140 resettlement workers, about a fifth of its staff, and close down five offices. Scott Arbeiter is World Vision (ph) president.

SCOTT ARBEITER: It's a dramatic impact on our infrastructure and on our people and of course on the communities that have been welcoming and serving those refugees.

GJELTEN: Other resettlement agencies reached by NPR say they're assessing the impact of the refugee cutback and may also reduce their staff. Arbeiter fears the caseworkers he's letting go will take other jobs and not be available should the refugee flow increase again.

ARBEITER: The resettling of a refugee population - bringing people in who do not know the language, do not know the food or the culture, often have been traumatized by war and terror is not a skill that can just simply be picked up. It's something that is learned over time.

GJELTEN: President Trump shut the door on refugees, he says, out of fear terrorists may sneak in, but Arbeiter says most of the refugees World Relief has resettled have come from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar, not the Middle East. Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLENDED BABIES SONG, "EAGLE MOON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Gjelten reports on religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.