Director Of Idaho Office For Refugees Looks Back On 32-Year Career

Dec 22, 2017

Jan Reeves has been the director of the Idaho Office for Refugees since 1998, but he got his start in the field in the '80s – when resettlement was under the state Department of Health and Welfare.

“It was a serendipitous opportunity that came up," says Reeves. "I had never created a life plan that included becoming a resettlement professional.”

Reeves says when the state first began accepting refugees, the reception among Idahoans was positive. He’s seen that welcoming spirit ebb and flow over the years. Reeves says some international events – including 9/11 and the 2008 Great Recession – altered how people view the program.

“But I don’t think that we have ever experienced the existential crisis that we’re facing right now.”

Worldwide, the UN estimates there are 65.5 million refugees. At the same time, the Trump Administration has set a limit of 45,000 refugees for 2018 – less than half of the number admitted during Obama’s last year in office. Reeves recognizes that for some, this reduction seems like a good thing.

“For those who have been involved with refugees who understand who refugees are, who appreciate the value that refugees bring to our community – it’s a travesty.”

Reeves says it’s hard to leave the field when the future of refugee resettlement programs are unclear, but he’s confident in the ability of the folks who will lead the Idaho efforts after he steps away.

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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