NASHVILLE (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholic Charities of Tennessee was forced to cut its Refugee Resettlement workforce by 30 percent following President Donald Trump's executive order reducing the number of Muslim refugees admitted into the United States. The non-profit receives federal dollars in proportion to the number of refugees it takes in — the more refugees, the more money from the government.
Pam Russo, executive director of Catholic Charities Tennessee , made the announcement in late February. Describing it as "devastating news," the non-profit had to cut staff after Trump announced a cap on refugees of 50,000 down from 110,000.
With the changes in federal policies, Russo said Catholic Charities will shift focus. "Now our primary focus will shift to refugees who are here already in the areas of employment and helping them get to self-sufficiency," she explained.
The Catholic bishops in the U.S. have been largely critical of President Trump's immigration policies. On March 1, Cdl. Blase Cupich of the Chicago archdiocese issued a letter, demanding federal immigration agents be barred entry into Catholic schools. It was the first such guidance from a Catholic prelate in the nation.
Addressing Congress on February 28, President Trump said, "I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: To improve jobs and wages for Americans; to strengthen our nation's security; and to restore respect for our laws."
The concerns over immigration are real. In November 2016, a Muslim from Somalia resettled by Catholic Charities attacked students on the Ohio State campus. Abdul Artan ran his car into a group of students on campus and then attacked them with a butcher knife before being shot by a police officer.
"Catholic Charities brought Artan [the suspect] from Pakistan to Dallas," Robert Spencer told Church Militant in November. "They have to take responsibility for how they are endangering Americans."
"The Islamic State has called for lone wolf attacks in the U.S." he continued. "Clearly Artan also thought it was a meritorious act to kill infidels. He wrote, 'By Allah, I am willing to kill a billion infidels.'"
Catholic Charities USA has launched a fundraising campaign to raise $8 million for the loss of funds in local Refugee Resettlement offices. World Relief, the only other resettlement agency in the Nashville area, recently made plans to lay off more than 140 employees.
In his comments to Congress Tuesday night, Trump concluded, "By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars and make our communities safer for everyone."