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Major refugee resettlement agency in Texas announces budget shortfall, pause in new arrivals

A group of young refugees stand outside in a parking lot.
Christina Ulsh
KERA News special contributor
A group of young refugees wait on a school bus outside their apartment complex in Dallas, Texas.

Refugee Services of Texas, one of the main refugee resettlement agencies in the state, is facing a major budget crisis forcing it to close two offices, cut staff and pause new refugee arrivals.

In a statement released Wednesday morning, the agency said it had resettled a record number of 4,700 refugees in the past 18 months, a lot more than it originally projected. To cover the additional costs, the agency said it nearly depleted its financial reserves.

“We drew down our resources very rapidly to fill in the gap between what the government provides for services and then what we are required to raise privately for resettlement services," said Chris Kelley, spokesperson for Refugees Services of Texas. "We extended ourselves dramatically to try and resettle these record number of folks and then worked very hard to raise private funds, but we have not succeeded in doing as much fundraising as we need to do."

The 45-year-old agency, which has a total operating budget of $37.5 million, is now asking for the public's help. Kelley said it also plans to reach out to donors and look for other funding opportunities such as grants. It’s also implementing a so-called emergency restructuring plan.

Under this plan, Refugee Services of Texas, or RST, is:

  • Closing two of its offices located in Fort Worth and Houston, which affects 73 employees.
  • Cutting its entire staff by 45 percent, from 241 employees as of April 30 to 134 employees by the end of June.
  • Considering furloughing some of its remaining staff.
  • Pausing new refugee arrivals for 120 days as the agency restructures and realigns its budget.
  • Planning to raise $4 million by June 1.

Since late March, the agency has featured a notice on its website asking the public for financial support. The message explains the unexpected number of refugees RST received last year and that it’s “now facing a critical budget shortfall.”

And in January, CEO David McKeever urged the public to help the agency "make up for significant budget cuts" to its anti-trafficking programs. In his message posted online, he said RST needed to raise $750,000 this year.

Although it won’t accept new arrivals for the next four months, Kelley said the agency will continue to handle current cases. For fiscal year 2023, RST has 976 refugee clients. Kelley said about 300 to 350 new cases will be referred to other resettlement agencies.

In its statement, RST said it expects to “weather the storm” and be able to serve new clients in the future.

This story is developing.

Got a tip? Email Stella M. Chávez at You can follow Stella on Twitter @stellamchavez.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.