KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The plummeting number of refugees resettling in Kansas City mirrors a national trend, particularly among those from predominantly Muslim countries.
Fewer than 480 refugees resettled in Kansas City last year, compared to more than 740 in 2016, according to U.S. Department of State data compiled by The Associated Press. Just over 50 refugees resettled in the city this fiscal year, which is halfway over.
The city’s biggest drop has been among refugees from Somalia. Kansas City welcomed nearly 160 Somali refugees last year, but only five so far this year, the Kansas City Star reported .
The numbers reflect federal policy changes starting early last year. President Donald Trump lowered the cap on refugee admissions, suspended a program that reunites families split during resettlement and banned arrivals from several mostly Muslim countries, including Somalia.
The U.S. is on pace to take in about 21,000 refugees this fiscal year, which is well under the 45,000 cap the administration set. That estimate could be the smallest intake of refugees since Congress passed a 1980 law creating the modern resettlement system.
Kansas City refugee resettlement agencies have also seen the impact of the decline in refugees.
Della Lamb is one of two federal subcontractors that help with the refugee resettlement process in Kansas City. The organization assists refugees within their first 90 days in the U.S., from completing medical exams and applying for a Social Security card to enrolling in classes for English as a second language.
But two-thirds of Della Lamb’s staff had been laid off because of the drop in refugees resettling in the city, said Judy McGonigle Akers, the organization’s executive vice president.
Della Lamb was slated to help 300 refugees in the last fiscal year, but only 167 came. They’re scheduled to help up to 160 refugees this year, but have so far helped 33.
Federal policy changes have essentially dismantled much of the refugee infrastructure nationally, said Sofia Khan, founder of the nonprofit KC for Refugees. She said: “I’m afraid if this continues, and agencies can’t keep up, what happens?”
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com