“These refugee family members in East Africa have already faced tremendous delays in their cases, and this change will only make it worse,” said an agency staff member, who was not authorized to speak with the news media. “This is a disaster for them.”
The primary obligation of the international operations office in Bangkok, for example, is to handle refugee applications. “The demise of this office will mean that refugees will be cast adrift, literally,” said Diane Butler, an immigration lawyer in Seattle who visited that district office, which oversees all of Asia, in late February. She said that a new district director had been transitioning into the new position. “There was no hint of this,” she said.
The changes at U.S.C.I.S. come as the president’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year proposes cutting State Department funding for humanitarian assistance overseas, prompting concern from refugee advocates.
Mr. Trump’s spending plan, which is likely to face deep resistance on Capitol Hill, would reduce the State Department budget for humanitarian spending from about $9.1 billion to about $6 billion, according to budget documents released this week by the administration.
In addition, the budget proposal would virtually eliminate funding for the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, which for years has worked to help refugees resettle in the United States. The budget would transfer most of the money to a new program jointly administered by the United States Agency for International Development and the secretary of State.
“At a time where there have never been more forcibly displaced people in recorded history, this administration came to Capitol Hill and with a straight face said they were proposing a cut in humanitarian assistance of more than one-third,” said Eric Schwartz, the president of Refugees International, an advocacy organization.
“It’s all about the fact that the president has communicated that he doesn’t like refugees coming to the United States,” Mr. Schwartz said. “His administration is carrying out that obstruction in a determined way.”