State Department Lifts President Trump's Weekly Caps on Refugees and Local Agencies Prepare

Jun 7, 2017

The International Institute of Akron has been settling as few as 25 and as many as 130 refugees a month. Many have come from camps in Nepal, but more Syrians are expected.
Credit M.L. SCHULTZE / WKSU

The State Department has quietly lifted President Trump’s curtailing of refugee resettlements, and the largest resettlement agency in Northeast Ohio is gearing up to handle whatever comes next. 

President Obama authorized 120,000 refugees for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. President Trump cut that in February to 50,000. But the State Department sent a memo in late May telling refugee groups they would no longer be restrained by weekly quotas.  

Liz Walters of the International Institute of Akron says resettlement numbers have always ebbed and flowed, with the agency resettling as few as 25 and as many as 130 a month. She says how many will be coming now depends on what happens overseas.

“The big question mark is how many folks have been in process overseas and how quickly they can start to schedule those folks for travel or at what point they finish up their security clearances and can get them here before the end of the fiscal year.”

The institute laid off nine people after Trump’s order in February. But Walters says local groups and other philanthropists have donated so the institute could keep most case managers on staff.

What about next year?
Walters notes that Trump’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year includes funding to resettle 50,000 refugees, the minimum under the law.

“We’re hopeful that that will pass and we’re optimistic that it was included in the budget. But we’re just not sure what will come out in the final budget product and also really unsure about the priorities that will emerge after the courts finally do make a ruling.”

Walters is referring to the likelihood that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up challenges to President Trump’s travel ban, which limited not only overall numbers but banned travel from six countries of origin.