Taxpayers Bear the Burden As Refugee Resettlement Soars

Don Barnett, Tennesseean, December 9, 2009

This fiscal year, the U.S. resettled almost three times as many refugees as all the rest of the countries in the industrialized world combined.

Despite the recession, growing poverty, unemployment and homelessness, the U.S. resettled 75,000 refugees, the highest number of admissions since 9/11.

This is possible only because what was once the calling of true sacrificial charity and private sponsors is now the responsibility of the American taxpayer. Traditional sponsor duties have been replaced by access to welfare upon arrival for refugees and an opaque stream of grant money from seemingly every government agency except NASA.

In recent years up to 95 percent of the refugees coming to the U.S. were referred by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or were the relatives of U.N.-picked refugees. Until the late 1990s, the U.S. picked the large majority of refugees for resettlement in the U.S.

Considering that the refugee influx causes increases in all legal and illegal immigration as family and social networks are established in the U.S., the U.N. is effectively dictating much of U.S. immigration policy.

A nonprofit nation of hundreds of taxpayer-funded organizations has grown up around refugee resettlement in the U.S. A government-funded study finds “U.S. resettlement communities are awash with ECBOs that exist in name only but provide little meaningful assistance.” ECBO stands for Ethnic Community Based Organization, a government-defined category of grant recipients.

The expansion of the fraud-prone refugee program and the transformation of refugee resettlement into a federal contracting business have given birth to a global refugee industry well-adapted to the federal grant and contract environment.

Catholic Charities with its parent the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB ) is the largest refugee agency both nationally and in Nashville. It is neither a charity nor Catholic, but more an extension of a state welfare agency.

Sixty-five percent of Catholic Charities USA’s $3.6 billion annual budget comes from government sources. Refugee resettlement, a relatively small portion of its services, is covered by the government at closer to 100 percent. For nonprofits, it is profitable to be in refugee resettlement, and the executive directors of some of the 10 major resettlement agencies make almost as much as the president of the United States.

Nashville Catholic Charities devotes about 26 percent of its budget to “immigrants and refugees,” an amazingly high percentage considering most of that aid is going to recent refugee arrivals–a fraction of 1 percent of Nashville’s population. Interestingly, Tennessee recently put Nashville Catholic Charities in charge of distributing and monitoring federal “refugee” grant money to other NGOs in the state.

The possibility of a generous reception in the U.S. has created a “magnet effect” for refugees deciding between resettlement in the U.S. and integration in the region where they reside.

The once-independent faith-based and civic organizations have suffered their own “magnet effect,” causing a shift of efforts away from traditional works toward the more profitable refugee program. USCCB even lobbies for more business–that is, for higher refugee admission quotas.

Incentives built into refugee resettlement are behind much of its growth, especially as refugees themselves enter the federal contracting and lobbying business.

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