- Associated Press - Friday, April 7, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana’s largest refugee resettlement agency is losing more than one-third of its staff as the Trump administration moves to reduce the number of refugees entering the U.S.

Exodus Refugee Immigration had estimated to receive 1,600 refugees by October under previous guidelines, but that number is now looking to drop to around 800, the Indianapolis Star (https://indy.st/2oMQh4s ) reported.

The Indianapolis-based agency said it resettled 19 people in March, down from an average of nearly 80 a month toward the end of the Obama administration.

“It’s been a wild couple of months,” said Cole Varga, executive director of Exodus.

The reductions have taken a large bite out of the budgets of resettlement agencies, which receive more than $2,000 per refugee from the federal government for services that include providing interpreters, language teachers and people helping the new arrivals find services like medical care.

The reduced budget has forced Exodus to cut 15 employees.

In late January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that placed a 90-day ban on refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. The order also suspended the refugee program for 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely. A federal judge later issued a restraining order to halt the ban nationwide.

But uncertainty about the court cases, combined with reduced funding for refugee relocation, has slowed refugee resettlements.

Catholic Charities Indianapolis is also seeing a big decrease in refugees, but because of its affiliation with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis the organization hasn’t had to cut staff.

Heidi Smith, director of refugee services for Catholic Charities, said her organization has held off on filling positions and adding new ones that had become necessary prior to Trump’s executive orders.

“We just kind of decided to wait it out and see how things would go,” Smith said.

In recent years, refugees have arrived in Indiana from Burma, Congo and Syria, with smaller numbers from Somalia, Iraq, Eritrea, Sudan and other countries, State Department figures show.

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Information from: The Indianapolis Star, https://www.indystar.com

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