Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

World Relief Spokane troubled by lowered refugee cap

Mark Finney is director of World Relief Spokane, a Christian organization that helps refugees resettle. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

The leader of Spokane’s largest organization assisting refugees says he’s worried and disappointed by the latest proposal to cut to the number of refugees allowed into the county.

Federal officials announced this week that it is capping the number of refugees allowed into the United States in the next year to 18,000, a 40% decline from 2019, the Washington Post reported.

“We’re working with quite a few folks who got family who are partway through the process,” said Mark Finney, director of World Relief in Spokane. “When they hear this, that makes them really afraid that their family’s not going to make it through as this door narrows to a crack.”

Finney said the odds of getting to the United States this year as a refugee were one in a thousand.

“With cutting the program nearly in half, you might as well go buy lottery tickets,” Finney said.

Even for those who don’t have relatives remaining in dangerous areas, Finney said this had a “chilling effect” for refugees in Spokane.

“They don’t feel as welcome in the community,” Finney said. “They feel like maybe there’s hostility in the broader society. That they don’t belong here.”

Finney’s reaction to the news was a combination of pain and frustration, but not surprise.

President Donald Trump’s administration has been cracking down on both legal and illegal immigration. The White House opposes many aspects of the refugee program, which officials claim poses national security risks.

The White House announcement was made as the United States tries to handle an influx of Central American families seeking asylum at the U.S. border with Mexico

Across the world, the number of refugees has reached 71 million, according to the United Nations. It it the highest number of people seeking refuge from violence or persecution since World War II.

Finney said the rationale given by the White House is based on false information. The administration said they need more resources for the southern border and there are backlogs in immigration courts.

“Those issues are completely disconnected from the refugee program,” Finney said. “They’re totally different segments of the federal government, completely different funding streams.”

He also pointed out that refugees do not go through immigration court because their entire process is processed by the state department when they’re overseas.

“There’s a huge disconnect between the reasons given and the actual structure of the program,” Finney said. “This matched a pattern that we see throughout the administration that’s just this animus toward all kinds of immigrants, whether they come through a legal channel like the refugee program or whether they come across the border without papers.”