After Trump's Order, A Columbus Refugee Center Welcomes Its Last New Arrivals

Feb 15, 2017

For the past five years, World Relief Columbus has served thousands of refugees coming to Columbus. The local branch of an international organization helped new Americans find housing, enroll in English classes, and seek employment.

And because of President Trump's executive orders, it'll close its doors this year.

Director Kay Lipovsky says World Relief Columbus worked closely with the city and had become a model for refugee resettlement programs. She says the unexpected decision to close, which came last week, was not based on performance but on numbers. 

President Trump's executive order, issued in January, reduces the refugees admitted into the country to 50,000, down from 110,000 in 2016. While parts of the order, restricting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, have been suspended by a federal court, the ruling does not include this measure. 

Lipovsky says her office was expecting to resettle 350 individuals in 2017. After the executive order, the office will only receive 15 more people.

"The biggest impact this has in on the refugees," Lipovsky says. "The refugees who can't come here and be reunited with their family." 

For organizations like World Relief, fewer refugees means less federal funding. Lipovsky says her office of eight has lost 75 percent of its budget due to the new policy.

To consolidate resources World Relief will close five of their U.S. offices. Columbus was chosen because there are two similar organizations in the city: Community Refugee and Immigration Services and US Together.  

"We are devastated," Lipovsky says. "I don't think anyone thought that things would be so severe. There's no way you could prepare for something like this."

Two other Columbus organizations that help resettle refugees, Community Refugee and Immigration Services and US Together, have also reported laying off staff in anticipation of less federal funding.

Even after the executive order was issued, Lipovsky says she expected a budget shortfall. But she never thought this would mean the office would close entirely.

"We're just going to be one of many casualties of this executive order," Lipovsky.

World Relief Columbus will cease operations in July. The organization says it's also closing offices in Florida, Idaho, Maryland, and Tennessee.