After nearly four decades of service, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) Chicago has been directed by the U.S. State Department to shut down one of its signature programs, refugee resettlement.
The move, one of dozens of similar closings and consolidations across the country, is a result of decreased numbers of refugees coming to the United States. Earlier this year, the administration set a cap of 45,000, down from 85,000 actual resettlements two years ago.
Since the late 1970s, HIAS Chicago's program has resettled thousands of refugees from the former Soviet Union, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, and Syria. The agency connected them with safe furnished housing, employment opportunities and education for their children, and set them on a path to successful integration into their new community.
"The decision to discontinue resettlement efforts was not ours," HIAS Chicago and its parent agency, Jewish Child & Family Services, said in a statement. "Significant decreases in arrivals mean fewer programs are needed to support resettlement.
"As saddened as we are to see our program end, we are deeply concerned about those individuals and families awaiting their turns to come to the United States. Those who have been waiting years or even decades will now need to wait even longer to find freedom."
HIAS Chicago leaders stressed that the agency's other immigration and citizenship work will continue beyond the anticipated February closing of the resettlement program, "as it has for over a century."
Welcoming and aiding refugees has been one of the core missions of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago since its creation in 1900, and that commitment is unwavering. As part of that, the Federation's role as administrator for refugee services for the State of Illinois will continue.
Over the past year, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago has urged Congress to maintain and fully fund the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Distinct from immigrants, refugees fled from their home country and cannot return because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on religion, race, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.