I haven’t seen anything official yet from the bigwigs in the refugee industry other than their campaign I told you about here to pressure Congress into pressuring Trump to make a determination this month that would increase refugee admissions to 95,000 for fiscal year 2021 which begins in three weeks.
But, I ran across a paper written by a student (published in May of this year) in which she interviews underlings at several of the nine major federal resettlement contractors. I’ve snipped just this section of an interview with Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC) staff, but the whole paper has some informative nuggets for refugee policy wonks.
I was mostly interested in discussions of the upcoming Presidential Determination, so didn’t spend a lot of time on all of the gory details about what Trump is doing to them.
(See a recent post on ECDC here.)
The staffers in the Chicago office (the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago is a subcontractor of ECDC) say they fully expect zero refugees in FY2021 if Trump is reelected. They say they are financially strapped, but when I checked USA Spending I found that they were still getting millions of your tax dollars. For what, I want to know?
From a University of Mississippi Honors Thesis by Savannah Day entitled:
“[Don’t] Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor…” a Study on the Trump Administration’s Unprecedented Reforms to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and their Implications
Rebecca Zellelew and Aklilu Adeye: ECDC – Chicago, IL
(Personal interview, 02/21/2020)
Rebecca Zellelew and Aklilu Adeye serve as a case manager and the executive director of the Ethiopian Community Development Council in Chicago, respectively.
This interview was conducted with both of them engaging in answering the questions simultaneously.
Zellelew and Adeye said for the FY 2020 PD, the administration is shifting its priorities and focusing mainly on religious minorities such as Ukrainians.
Because of this administration’s differing priorities and continuous cuts to the USRAP, the ECDC Chicago office has shrunk in staffing since 2017, they said.
They did not specify how many staffers had left or been laid off. Adeye said the office is having to shift to be a different kind of nonprofit offering different services, and also are not able to afford to refill positions of those who decide to leave or who are laid off. Adeye called this season a process of “soul searching” for his office, in order to rebuild from the damages the Trump administration’s cuts caused.
Adeye mentioned focusing on “revenue makers” several times as the office is shifting to focus on other programs that serve the already resettled communities in Chicago that can pay for ECDC extra services such as continued language classes, job training, after school and children’s programs, etc. Adeye said especially in the context of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, he is going to give refugee resettlement “one more year” before they decide to make any big decisions regarding changing the office’s services.
Adeye and Zellelew explained together why they think the cuts are being made, and that it is largely due to “othering rhetoric becoming
mainstream” and “identity politics.”
Zellelew said President Trump is a “mouthpiece” to address the group that has made immigration an “ideological” issue and “easy target.”
She said President Trump will do “whatever will get him the most votes” and “momentum.” Zellelew said Trump is able to make politically uninformed groups go vote based on his energized nationalism.
Adeye called these cuts a “difficult wound,” and that the administration uses refugee resettlement as a “flashpoint” for conversation, “just like abortion and healthcare.”He backed this up by saying he’s observed this as new because the refugee program wasn’t demonized until recently, not “even after 9/11,” when American fear of outsiders was at an all-time high. [Where has he been, yes, it has been criticized long before Trump came along, to that I can attest.—ed]
Zellelew said the underlying factor of all of the Trump administration’s immigration policy, refugee resettlement cuts included, is “racially motivated.”
She said that his administration “shows a history of racist policies” and she takes this into account since refugees are often people of color, not
Anglo-Saxon European like a stereotypical looking ‘American.’
Regarding the future, Adeye said it matters who wins the election in November, but that it will take at least two years to rebuild the capacity of the program since all of these cuts have occurred. If Trump wins, Zellelew said, a zeroing policy for FY 2021 is “inevitable,” and the program infrastructure will completely collapse.
On a positive note, Adeye said there has been a big “awakening in society” and that there will be “lots of future policy change” after we “get over this rut we’re in.”
More here if you are interested in what the refugee contractor staffers have to say about the President and his policies. One of the resettlement agency staffers in Arkansas says that Republican governors and other “conservatives” are supportive of refugee resettlement, but keep quiet about it.