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Why one of Boise’s three refugee-resettlement agencies is closing

Refugee Bonane Basengelele, left, lost his father in the political upheaval of the Congo. The parents of Joli Ramadhan, right, were killed there too. With the help of resettlement agencies, both started new lives in Boise and landed jobs as janitors at Sage International School. Fewer refugees will settle in Boise this year under President Trump’s executive order on immigration.
Refugee Bonane Basengelele, left, lost his father in the political upheaval of the Congo. The parents of Joli Ramadhan, right, were killed there too. With the help of resettlement agencies, both started new lives in Boise and landed jobs as janitors at Sage International School. Fewer refugees will settle in Boise this year under President Trump’s executive order on immigration. doswald@idahostatesman.com

World Relief, one of three agencies that help refugees transition to life in the Treasure Valley, is closing its Boise office because of President Donald Trump’s executive order slashing resettlement.

The Boise office is one of five sites closing as the nonprofit prepares for the number of refugees flowing into the country to dwindle, Renee Hage said Wednesday. Hage, of Boise, oversees 12 World Relief offices and is interim director of the Boise office.

Fewer refugees means fewer federal dollars to pay for transition efforts.

“We don’t want every office desperately hanging on, trying to make it,” she said.

Some of World Relief’s 13 local employees will stay on to deliver services for transitioning refugees, a process that usually takes eight to 12 months, Hage said. Some will be laid off.

Trump’s order imposed a 120-day ban on refugee resettlement, a 90-day ban on admission of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations and an indefinite suspension of Syrian refugees. A federal appeals court upheld a temporary restraining order against part of the order, so immigration has resumed.

But the courts have not challenged the part of the president’s order that will reduce the number of refugees resettling in the U.S. from 110,000 to 50,000 in the federal fiscal year that began Oct. 1, said Jan Reeves, executive director of the Idaho Office of Refugees.

Bahati Sudjonga, 19, arrived from Congo to be greeted by his brother and sister — and a cheering crowd at the Boise airport. The family had been separated for five months. Bahati was the last refugee with IRC to arrive before Pres. Donald Trump's

“The president has every right and authority to set the number of refugees admitted every year,” Reeves said. “Even though the executive order is still under appeal, we think the 50,000 is a realistic expectation.”

So the 1,170 refugees estimated to enter Idaho this year could be cut in half. With the nation already having admitted 30,000 refugees four months into the fiscal year, resettlement agencies can expect their number of clients — and the per capita payments they receive to process them — to dry up, Hage said.

World Relief is a Christian organization whose Boise office receives government funding under contract with the Idaho Office of Refugees to help refugees find and furnish apartments, process immigration paperwork, arrange health care, receive temporary financial aid and find jobs. The Agency for New Americans and the International Rescue Committee receive funds for similar services.

World Relief was expected to assist an estimated 250 refugees this year. It already has settled 71.

World Relief is also closing offices in Baltimore, Nashville, Miami and Columbus, Ohio.

The International Rescue Committee is the largest of Boise’s resettlement agencies. Agency for New Americans is the smallest.

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