President Donald Trump’s restrictions on refugee resettlements in the United States have led a Baltimore-based evangelical agency that works with refugees to shutter some of its offices and lay off a chunk of its staff.
World Relief, a global humanitarian relief and development organization headquartered at 7 E. Baltimore Street, yesterday announced the layoffs of 140 staffers and the closure of five of its 27 offices around the country. The agency said the move was a “direct result” of the Trump administration’s decision to sharply reduce refugee resettlements throughout fiscal 2017.
The five refugee resettlement offices set to close are in Boise, Columbus, Ohio, Miami, Fla., Nashville and Glen Burnie, Md. Together, they have resettled more than 25,000 refugees over the last 40 years.
“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 a 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.”
Arbeiter noted that the staffers being laid off are experts in their field. “This represents a loss of more than 140 jobs—which by itself is deeply troubling—but also decades of organizational expertise and invaluable capacity to serve the world’s most vulnerable people,” he said.
CEO Tim Breene said in the announcement that World Relief’s organizational mandate and ministry will not end. “We fully intend to continue the critical work of resettling refugees and serving other immigrants in the communities where we serve throughout the United States,” he said.
Breene said Trump’s policies come at a time of dire need for many refugees. “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,” he said.
The agency plans to “redouble” its efforts to serve refugees in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere. “We urge the Trump Administration to renew and reinvigorate efforts to work together with the global humanitarian community to meet this urgent crisis head on,” he said.
World Relief was founded 70 years ago as part of the National Association of Evangelicals and is one of nine agencies that work with the government to assist refugees. It moved to Baltimore more than a decade ago, at a time when the city was attempting to attract nonprofit organizations that wanted to be close to Washington D.C., but didn’t want to pay the high office rents there. It occupies the former offices of the Bank of Baltimore.
From its headquarters, World Relief coordinates offices around the country that work with local churches and others to provide refugee and immigration services. It also operates in 20 countries, focusing on health and child development, economic development, peace building and disaster response.
As one of his first acts in office, Trump signed an executive order that imposed a 120-day moratorium on the United States’ Refugee Admissions Program and indefinitely excluded refugees from Syria.
World Relief’s leaders called for a quick end to the refugee ban, saying it harms many of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Now it is harming the organization itself.
“This has been a very sad day. A very sad several weeks,” Matthew Soerens, World Relief’s director of church mobilization, tweeted yesterday. “Please be praying for my colleagues & those they have served who will be impacted.”