World Relief, a national refugee resettlement agency, is closing its Nashville office due to President Donald Trump’s executive order that reduced the number of refugees coming to the U.S.
The faith-based organization announced Wednesday in a news release that it “has been forced to make the difficult decision” to close five offices across the country and lay off more than 140 staff members due to fewer refugees coming to the country during the 2017 fiscal year.
“It has been our great privilege to serve both local churches and resilient refugee and immigrant families in each of these communities,” said World Relief President Scott Arbeiter, in the news release. “Our staff at each of these locations have served diligently and sacrificially—some of them for many years—and we are deeply saddened to have to make this difficult decision.”
Other offices that are closing include those in Boise, Idaho; Columbus, Ohio; Miami, Florida; and Glen Burnie, Maryland. World Relief said all five offices have collectively resettled more than 25,000 refugees in the past 40 years.
The controversial executive order signed Jan. 27 suspended the entire U.S. refugee program and temporarily halted travel to seven majority-Muslim countries. But it also capped the number of refugees that could come to the U.S. during fiscal year 2017 at 50,000. The refugee cap is not affected by the recent court challenges of the executive order, said Matthew Soerens, a World Relief spokesman.
The executive order said that a higher number “would be detrimental to the interests” of the U.S.
Trump’s refugee limit is less than half the 110,000 refugee limit former President Barack Obama set for the fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017. The previous year Obama allowed for the entry of 85,000 refugees.
Tim Breene, World Relief’s chief executive officer, urged the Trump administration in the news release to renew efforts to help meet the needs of the global refugee crisis. He also said the nonprofit’s work will continue.
“The unfortunate truth is that given the unprecedented nature of the global refugee crisis, there are simply more people than ever that need our support and our compassion,” Breene said. “We are redoubling our efforts to find solutions to serve displaced peoples in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and elsewhere around the globe.”
So far for fiscal year 2017, the U.S. has accepted 35,544 refugees, according to the U.S. State Department’s Refugee Processing Center. Under Trump’s order, fewer than 15,000 refugees can come to the U.S. this fiscal year.
As a result, World Relief decided to cut five of its 25 offices as well staff since the they only resettle a portion of the refugees in the U.S., and their funding is based on the number of refugees they resettle, Soerens said. The offices are not closing immediately and will continue to meet its current resettlement obligations.
“We have too much capacity to serve a relatively small number of refugees,” Soerens said.
When making its closure decisions, World Relief opted not to close any of its offices in cities where they were the only resettlement organization, Soerens said. Specific to Nashville, the city’s rising cost of living was also a factor, he added.
Catholic Charities of Tennessee will continue to resettle and serve refuges in the Nashville area, said Rick Musacchio, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville. However, the organization is also concerned about how it will be impacted by the reduction of refugees under Trump’s executive order.
“We don’t have an answer to that yet,” Musacchio said.
World Relief’s Memphis office will remain open.