Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rumored Refugee Resettlement Cuts Could Shrink Utah Humanitarian Efforts

Woman with head scarf kneading dough in kitchen.
From film "A Kitchen Can Take You Back." Kelsie Moore / KUER.
Thikra Thanon working in Laziz Kitchen, Salt Lake City in 2017. The restaurant has a commitment to hiring refugees.

Refugee resettlement numbers have been declining in the U.S. and Utah for the past three years. According to a recent report by Politico, the Trump administration is considering even deeper cuts to resettlement programs.

According to data from the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, the total number of refugees admitted to the U.S. dropped nearly three-quarters since 2016 — from some 85,000 to about 22,500 in 2018. In Utah, the number of resettled refugees went down from 1,192 to 320 in that same period.

So far this year, 17,570 refugees have resettled in the U.S. — including 278 in Utah. 

The Politico report last week said Trump administration officials are considering capping the number of refugees allowed in the country at anywhere between 3,000 to 10,000 — or possibly even zero.

KUER sent an email to the White House Press Office to verify Politico’s report, but received no response. 

Aden Batar, the director of migration and refugee services at Catholic Community Services of Utah, said the rumors are disappointing, but not surprising. 

“Every day we see that this is [the Trump administration’s] goal: to make America non-welcoming,” Batar said. 

If the program is cut, he predicts Utah will only see less than 100 refugee arrivals. 

Batar said resettlement opportunities are critical for refugees across the world. He himself is a refugee from Somalia. Batar fled his home country in 1994 after a civil war broke out in 1990, throwing the country into chaos. 

Batar fears how many lives could be lost if the U.S. makes further cuts to refugee resettlement and says it would have a world-wide ripple effect . 

“If we lower or cut our numbers, the rest of the world will continue to do [so] as well,” Batar said.


Credit KUER

Refugee Council USA, a coalition of refugee resettlement programs nationwide, has urged Congress to resettle at least 95,000 refugees next year. Here in Utah, there are two resettlement agencies: Catholic Community Services of Utah and the local International Rescue Committee office.

Batar thinks both organizations have the resources to resettle up to 1,000 refugees each. Even if the U.S. refugee resettlement program is cut, Batar said he is hopefully that services will continue in Utah. 

“We have the support of our community,” Batar said. “There’s so many people that want to volunteer. We will never close our doors on our refugees.” 

The Trump administration is expected to discuss the future of the program in September.

Rocio is coming to KUER after spending most of her life under the blistering Las Vegas sun and later Phoenix. She earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and Spanish at the University of Nevada, Reno. She did brief stints at The Associated Press, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Reno Public Radio. She enjoys wandering through life with her husband and their toy poodle.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.