The Journal Gazette
Sunday, November 22, 2020 1:00 am

Refugee arrivals in city lowest since 2012

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

The number of refugees resettled yearly in Fort Wayne has fallen below 100 for the first time since 2012.

Catholic Charities of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese said last week that it resettled 90 refugees in the city during fiscal 2020, which ended Sept. 30. The U.S. State Department placed the figure at 89.

The number of resettlements had ranged from 124 to 331 in the previous seven years, according to data from the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

The local decline coincides with President Donald Trump's annual lowering of the nationwide cap on refugee admissions from 110,000 when he was elected in fiscal 2017 to 18,000 in fiscal 2020. Only 11,814 refugees were admitted to the U.S. in the past year, according to the State Department.

Irene Paxia, chief executive officer of Amani Family Services, said there are “many families that would like for other family members to resettle” to Fort Wayne from other nations, including Myanmar, Thailand, Mexico and Honduras.

But “it is very difficult due to the process and its barriers,” Paxia said in an email. Amani Family Services assists immigrants and refugees through programs in family and community support and victim care.

Gloria Whitcraft, executive director of Catholic Charities, said in an email “there are always refugees who want to be reunited with family members.”

Trump has capped fiscal 2021 refugee arrivals at 15,000, the lowest since the Refugee Act of 1980 established resettlement services, and Catholic Charities said it expects to receive 100 locally. Statewide refugee arrivals have dropped from 1,042 in fiscal 2017 to 322 in fiscal 2020, with 444 projected admissions in the current fiscal year.

Various refugee advocacy organizations – including Catholic Charities USA, the International Refugees Assistance Project, Refugee Council USA, Voice for Refuge and World Relief – have objected to Trump's cuts in admissions.

“The Trump administration's choice to set such a pathetically low refugee goal for this new fiscal year is a shameful decision that reflects a total lack of moral and humanitarian leadership,” Eleanor Acer, senior director of refugee protection at Human Rights First, said last month in a statement.

Becca Heller, executive director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, told The Atlantic last month, “I think if Trump is reelected, it's the end of the U.S. refugee program.”

President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to increase the refugee admissions ceiling to 125,000 a year. Whitcraft said there is “no way of knowing” whether Fort Wayne will receive more refugees in coming years.

Catholic Charities has been resettling refugees in Fort Wayne since the mid-1990s. Most have been Burmese fleeing military rulers of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

Of the 90 refugees who arrived in the Summit City in fiscal 2020, 71 were Burmese, 11 were Ukrainian and eight were Pakistani, according to Floyd & Partners, the public relations agency for Catholic Charities.

The last year in which fewer than 100 refugees resettled in Fort Wayne was 2012, when 41 arrived.

The number of resettlements reported by Catholic Charities and the State Department can differ in any year because some refugees migrate to and from Fort Wayne after arriving in America, officials said.

If the number of new admissions has declined, their need for support and assistance has not, Amani's Paxia said.

The nonprofit agency receives clients through outreach programs, referrals from partner organizations, health care providers and schools, and “a growing word of mouth,” she said.

“Amani continues to serve a growing number of refugees and immigrant families in all of our programs. … The demand for our services is certainly growing,” Paxia said.

Amani's services include counseling; resources for access to employment, housing, health care, child care and transportation; interpretation assistance; mental health services; and help for crime victims.


The number of refugees resettled in Fort Wayne in every fiscal year of the past decade. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30.

2020: 89

2019 208

2018 132

2017 124

2016 289

2015 331

2014 190

2013 165

2012 41

2011 158

Sources: U.S. State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration

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