POUGHKEEPSIE–The refugee resettlement agency that operated briefly out of the Family Partnership Center in Poughkeepsie has closed its office, and it all points back to President Donald Trump’s executive order earlier this year reducing the number of refugees coming to the United States.
Staff at the faith-based Church World Service, which held public information meetings in Poughkeepsie slightly more than one year ago, had plans to relocate 80 refugees.
That included mainly those fleeing civil wars and persecution in nations like Iraq, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Future resettlement of refugees through the CWS Poughkeepsie office is unlikely in the near term–mostly because of the Trump administration’s dramatic reduction in our refugee admissions ceiling from 110,000 to 45,000 for the fiscal year,” said Roisin Ford, the former acting director of the Poughkeepsie office.
“While CWS no longer has a physical office space in the Hudson Valley, we continue to stand for welcome and serve refugee clients nationwide through our network of affiliate offices, which spans 21 states.”
The Poughkeepsie office on North Hamilton Street was the newest and smallest of Church World Service’s 34 affiliate offices.
Church World Service is one of nine resettlement agencies that contracts with the federal government to resettle refugees across the country. It finds housing for them, helps enroll their children in area schools and assists them in finding work.
Last fall, the global humanitarian ministry held public forums to outline its intentions and answer questions about integrating refugees into the community.
At the November meeting at Christ Episcopal Church, some expressed opposition, decrying the “secrecy” of the plan and how it was “thrust upon” city residents without their approval.
Shortly after Trump was elected, he signed an executive order temporarily banning travel from seven majority-muslim nations. A federal appeals court judge blocked that.
In March, the president signed a new measure that removed Iraq from the original travel ban and reinstated the ban on all refugees for 120 days.
Amidst all the chaos earlier this year, Church World Service was able to settle only one Congolese family in late January. The family of five had spent six years in a refugee camp in Malawi before arriving in Poughkeepsie.
Meanwhile, the agency announced on Nov. 2 of this year that its efforts to resettle more refugees and accommodate volunteers to work with them had been suspended.
It urged those in favor of resettling refugees to contact policymakers, expressing their support for the program and consider making a contribution to the agency’s emergency appeal.
“Our commitment to refugees relocated in January to our area remains our top priority,” the agency said on its website, http://cwspoughkeepsie.org/home/update/.
“We will continue to support their successful resettlement, in coordination with the family’s welcome team. I am happy to report that this effort is off to a good start, thanks in large part to the efforts of dedicated volunteers and members of the community.”
David Cole, a Poughkeepsie resident who led a group opposing the refugee resettlement, said he was not surprised to learn that CWS had closed its Hudson Valley office.
“Poughkeepsie was not the right place for a refugee resettlement office,” he said.
“CWS…tried to push this onto the community, and the community wasn’t happy about it. They still went ahead and pushed an office into the area. I’m sorry to say this, but the whole thing backfired in their faces.”
Cole, who organized a petition against resettlement late last year, said that after Trump cut the number of refugees in half, the agency wastefully spent all its resources in a community where many already are struggling.
“And when half the community didn’t agree with this program, they were called racists, bigots and so on,” he said. “It’s a shame those people didn’t see the real reasons why, and that is, Poughkeepsie is not the right place for a refugee resettlement.”