HIAS, the Jewish refugee aid agency, will be closing resettlement programs in several cities due to a sharp reduction in the total number of refugees let into the country in the next fiscal year.
The group’s Chicago chapter announced in an email Friday that it would be shuttering its refugee resettlement program.
The same day, HIAS President Mark Hetfield told JTA that programs in other cities would likely follow, though nothing has been finalized. HIAS runs refugee resettlement programs in 21 large to midsize metropolitan areas.
“It is true that smaller resettlement sites are being closed, and we’re in negotiations with the State Department right now as to which those will be,” he said. “We want to keep open as many sites as we can. Chicago has a lot of resettlement agencies there, and that was a smaller site.”
HIAS is one of nine national refugee resettlement groups, and helps find homes for thousands of refugees per year. But that effort will be reduced with the United States admitting no more than 45,000 refugees in the 2018 fiscal year that began in September. Some 53,000 refugees were resettled in the 2017 fiscal year — President Barack Obama had set a cap of 110,000 — in part because of President Donald Trump’s executive orders banning refugees, according to CNN.
For the fiscal year 2017, HIAS resettled about 3,300 refugees after being approved to resettle nearly 4,800 refugees. The organization has been approved for about 3,300 this year, but Hetfield expects to resettle fewer. He said the reduced number will make it a challenge to engage 380 synagogues nationwide that had signed up with HIAS to help with welcoming refugees to their cities.
“This is Trump’s America, really limiting the number of refugees that will be allowed into this country,” Hetfield said. “These are sad times for refugees, a sad time for America.”