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"We haven't had a breather," Foster says. "We hired a new staffperson and want to get them trained, but they end up landing and going to work because we have all these people arriving."
Every year, Foster explains, USCRI — the Virginia nonprofit that acts as the conduit between JVS and the State Department — tells its affiliates how many refugees it plans to send in the coming fiscal year.
"In June, we originally projected 420, and then USCRI asked us if we would raise that to 450," Foster says. "They have a network number that they project and they try to work that out among their affiliates."
If Kansas City cuts back, Weitkamp says, other affiliates across the country will have to pick up the slack — or the national program will be scaled back or eliminated. "It's not as though we couldn't send an SOS — that's it, no more — but it would have reverberating consequences," he says.
In recent months, though, Foster says she has asked for a slowdown in new arrivals. Other cities are going further than that.
"Detroit and Fort Wayne, Indiana, the resettlement agencies from those areas have said, 'We can't handle any more; don't put any more here,'" Wills says.
But Weitkamp is quick to follow up on the families' complaints when he hears them in mid-November. Within three days, a caseworker has visited Ntahondereye and Nyandwi. The heat is working, and the couch has been replaced, too.
Nibitanga is scheduled for job-search counseling at JVS and immunizations. The lack of food stamps, the caseworker says, was a glitch with the state, not JVS.
Still, even in the best of circumstances, Weitkamp emphasizes that refugees can't expect too much. "If their bottom line is they want to be taken care of, they should be looking at Scandinavia," he says. "They should go to Sweden. What this country offers is not that. What we do offer, to a greater extent than anywhere else, is tremendous opportunity."
That opportunity still seems distant to Nibitanga, sitting in her Prospect apartment, wearing orange sandals and a turquoise T-shirt in the November chill. Betrayal and resignation are in her voice when she admits that she's scared. The first few weeks in the United States have taught her to expect little. Here, as in the refugee camps, she focuses on survival.