- - Sunday, November 29, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Despite the exposure refugee resettlement has received lately, there has been little discussion of how the program actually operates.

Each year the administration establishes source regions and numbers for next year’s quota. The U.N. refugee agency refers most of the refugees that come through the system, though embassy staff and State Department contractors may also make referrals. An influential network of private contractors implements the program.

Speaking of the contractors running refugee resettlement, David M. Robinson, a former acting director of the refugee bureau in the State Department, wrote in 2000, “The agencies form a single body [that] wields enormous influence over the Administration’s refugee admissions policy. It lobbies the hill effectively to increase the number of refugees admitted for permanent resettlement each year and at the same time provides overseas processing for admissions under contract to the State Department. In fact, the federal government provides about ninety percent of its collective budget. If there is a conflict of interest, it is never mentioned.”

“[Its] solution to every refugee crisis is simplistic and the same: increase the number of admissions to the United States without regard to budgets or competing foreign policy considerations”

Today, the money is even better and for many of the private contractors the taxpayer portion of their income tops 95 percent. They are free to lobby lawmakers with what little money they raise from donations. Quarter million dollar executive salaries are the norm at the roughly 350 organizations affiliated with the nine major contractors. There are additional hundreds of supporting NGOs — most started and staffed by refugees and recent immigrants — soaking up grants from every agency of government except NASA. The U.S. government, according to its own audits, finds “U.S. resettlement communities awash with refugee NGOs that exist in name only but provide little meaningful assistance.” Think ACORN without borders.

Prior to the 1980 Refugee Act, refugee resettlement was a work of true sacrificial charity where sponsors and charities committed to maintaining and supporting the refugees with housing and employment, even medical care if needed. There was an explicit bar to the access of public assistance. In other words, the sponsor bears all costs and responsibility. This helped to guarantee assimilation and is how we absorbed post-WWII refugees, those fleeing communist oppression in Eastern Europe, the Hungarian revolution, the Cuban revolution and so on.

With the 1980 Refugee Act and other related laws, the charities morphed into private contractors whose job it is to link the refugees with social services. The 1980 Act made all welfare available to refugees upon arrival — for life, if eligibility is maintained.

But even this new model was intended to merely supplement resources that the “sponsors,” by their own efforts, brought to the problem. It was never intended that the sponsors, known as “Voluntary Agencies,” would be purely federal contractors with all the behavior, untoward incentives, money and influence peddling that this brings. Yet, that is what we have today.

The refugee industry’s very meager contractual obligation to provide assistance to the refugees — three or four months in most cases — and utter refusal to use their own resources has guaranteed that there will be isolation, not assimilation, and staggering welfare dependency.

The role of states in the Refugee Act has also changed since 1980. The Act intended to insulate states from refugee costs. It guaranteed 3 years of federal medical support and cash support to refugees upon arrival. It also required, additionally, federal reimbursement to the states for 3 years of the state’s portion of Medicaid, TANF, SSI, etc. paid out on behalf of refugees.

This latter stream of support was halted completely by 1991 resulting in a significant cost shift to the states. At the same time the direct support to refugees was reduced from three years to eight months — another cost shift to the states.

It’s no wonder that states are trying to assert their, as yet untested, right to refuse resettlement.

A recent GAO report quotes a state refugee official who notes, “funding is based on the number of refugees they serve, so affiliates have an incentive to maintain or increase the number of refugees they resettle each year rather than allowing the number to decrease.”

No kidding. And in a blizzard of atrocity propaganda and outright disinformation, we stand on the verge of a vast expansion of a program already by far the most generous in the world.

It is proper for Congress to make security concerns paramount, but that should be just the beginning of a thorough review of the program.

Don Barnett is a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies.

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