There is one last caseworker currently employed at the Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program located in Jacksonville, Fla. Her name is Pat Nelms and she now has an office all to herself, though she used to share it with three other full-time employees. Even with only one caseworker left, the remaining employees in the Refugee Resettlement Program are still determined to help as many families as are still able to get through under the new administration.
President Trump’s proposed FY 2018 budget cuts, which went into place Oct. 1, reduced funding to the State Department’s “Migration and Refugee Assistance” account by 11 percent down to $390 million. This program supports processing the refugee overseas, transporting them here and helping with initial settlement. The “Refugee and Entrant Assistance” account, which funds food assistance, education, time-limited cash and medical care, was cut by 31 percent down to $479 million.
Though this may seem like a lot of money, the budget cuts significantly impact the ability of programs like Jacksonville’s Refugee Resettlement Program to adequately help the new arrivals to get on their feet. With less money and benefits to provide in the first 180 days and few employees to assist with legal proceedings and paperwork, refugees are largely left on their own now to navigate the unfamiliar territory that is the United States of America.
But in spite of budget cuts and layoffs, the Refugee Resettlement Program hosted over 50 refugees at their annual Thanksgiving lunch on Nov. 18. Refugees from all over the world attended for food, music, games and face painting. Here are some of the people we have let in – and a reflection of the millions we are keeping out.
A Hazaragi father holds his son before the Thanksgiving meal is served. The baby is wearing a headband made by volunteers. The Hazara have faced slavery as recently as the 19th century and systematic executions in Afghanistan, typically at the hands of Sunni Muslims and radical groups like the Taliban.
This young girl is enrolled in the 8th grade in Jacksonville, Fla. She has been here for several months and while she already understands English, she is hesitant to speak it. She and her family escaped probable persecution and even execution by ISIS, the newest radical group to take the Taliban's place in extorting Muslim minorities.
A Pashtun boy and his father. Many Pashtuns say that they are now persecuted by other groups such as the Uzbeks and Tajiks of the Northern Alliance because the Taliban treated some Pashtun groups favorably when the radical group was in power. There have been reports of systematic executions and profiling by police, with a much higher percentage of Pashtun people being arrested on suspicion of terrorism.
Learn more about Olomwene Emedi and his family's struggles here.
Learn more about Bawi Tha and his family here.