Leo Hohmann, WND, July 16, 2014
Thousands of Central American children crossing the border illegally could soon turn into asylum seekers armed with immigration lawyers provided by church groups and paid for by federal tax dollars.
WND reported Friday that Catholic Charities USA and other religious groups were working behind the scenes with the federal government to temporarily house and resettle the children in dozens of communities across the United States.
Catholic Charities is running a fundraising campaign to help finance the resettlement of the illegal aliens, WND reported. But the religious charities get the bulk of their funding not from private donors or church members putting checks into a basket. They get it from the federal government.
Alexandria, Va.-based Catholic Charities USA reported receiving $1.7 million in government grants in 2012, according to its IRS Form 990.
But one of the largest recipients of government funds to resettle immigrant children is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The USCCB helps resettle not only unaccompanied alien children, or UACs, who enter the country illegally but also refugees fleeing persecution overseas who enter through legal channels.
The USCCB is one of nine agencies that receive hundreds of millions in tax dollars to resettle refugees and asylum seekers in the U.S. under contract with the federal government. Six of the nine contractors are religious groups, WND has learned, including the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Church World Service and World Relief Corp., which includes a plethora of evangelical groups.
The Catholic Bishops alone received $65.9 million in federal grants to care for unaccompanied alien children and refugees, according to its 2012 annual report.
By contrast, the group raised $1.4 million from its own church members while federal loans and private-sector grants made up the remainder of the $71 million spent on the resettlements that year. That means 93 percent of the USCCB’s spending on charity work with UACs and refugees was covered by the American taxpayer.
Similar funding ratios have been found to be the norm with the Lutheran effort.
The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service reported total income of $41.7 million in 2012, and government grants accounted for $40.4 million, or 96.8 percent of that amount, according to the nonprofit’s most recently reported Form 990, a disclosure that nonprofits must file with the Internal Revenue Service. The group raised only $1.3 million from private donors.
The money for refugees and asylum seekers may not even include the federal money funneled to Catholic Charities USA and other religious groups to resettle illegal border crossers coming into Texas, Arizona or New Mexico who arrive by themselves. The charities often subcontract with other charities, making it difficult to track the money.
The numbers of UACs coming through the Southern border have increased dramatically since 2009, and so have the costs, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which operates within the Department of Health and Human Services.
Eight years ago, the program averaged 6,775 referrals a year. In fiscal 2013 the number reached 24,668. Now, the agency is expecting 60,000 referrals in 2014 at a cost to the U.S. government of more than $750 million, up from less than $500 million in 2013 and less than $250 million in 2009.
Don Barnett, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, said he would like to see the feds rein in the grants and loans to charities that resettle refugees and UACs seeking asylum.
The federal government gives out not only grants but loans, and the nonprofit charities are able to pocket 25 percent of whatever they collect on those loans, Barnett explained. He said many of the loans are made to refugees or UACs for travel purposes.
“They actually hire collection agents to get the money back from the refugees,” he said. “It’s very profitable for the nonprofits, really quite profitable, and it has introduced perverse incentives into the whole process, into decision making and policy,” he said. “It totally disincentivizes rational thinking.”
These same religious charities can also be found lobbying Congress and the Obama administration for amnesty legislation and other policies that immigration watchdogs see as encouraging more illegal immigrants to cross the border.
On July 2 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a letter to Obama urging him not to send any of the unaccompanied children who had illegally crossed into the U.S. back to their home countries.
“Current law permits children from non-contiguous countries to remain in the country until their request for asylum or immigration relief is considered by an immigration judge,” said Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration. “This is a very vulnerable population which has been targeted by organized crime networks in Central America. To return them to these criminal elements without a proper adjudication of their cases is unconscionable.”
And in 2011, the Catholic Bishops advocated for passage of the DREAM Act, which would provide permanent legal status, some call it amnesty, to young people under 35 brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents if they had been here in the country since the age of 16 or younger, provided they had completed two years of college or military service.
Dan Cadman, with the Center for Immigration Studies, says it’s a conflict of interest for a group that benefits financially from immigration–both legal and illegal–to try to influence immigration policy.
“It bothers me that any private organization is using a government funding stream for that purpose, not only Catholic Charities but Lutheran World Service, the Episcopal Church, they’ve all got their hands in the pie,” Cadman said. “The thing is that everyone understands that, with a wink and a nod, this so-called emergency money (from Obama) is not going to result in any substantial number of individuals being deported. It’s just not. How ironic to see an emergency budget supplemental request and then when you look at the details you see it’s all going to be chewed up for things like brick and mortar buildings for resettlement and not used in any useful way to stop this tidal wave of human beings.”