Posted on April 26, 2018

US Refugee Program Needs a Complete Overhaul

Mary Doetsch, Washington Examiner, April 24, 2018


There once was a time when private charities, civic groups and faith-based organizations provided the bulk of funds and volunteers to resettle and help assimilate refugees in the United States. Today’s deeply flawed system relies almost exclusively on nine federal contractors (paradoxically referred to as “Voluntary Agencies” or VOLAGS) to resettle refugees.

The contractors have come to depend mostly on the U.S. taxpayer for their support. The VOLAGS receive between 57 percent to 99.5 percent of their funds from the federal government. Perhaps most troubling, top management typically receives salary and benefit packages in the mid-to-high six figures, ranging from $260,000 to more than $700,000 annually.

The contractors have a vested interest in processing ever-larger numbers of applicants, since they make money on every refugee settled. And as non-governmental organizations they can and do lobby for advantageous changes to law, something they could not do if they were government agencies. {snip}


The current U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services investigation into Burmese refugees who entered the United States using false identities is just one recent example of the program’s rampant fraud. In this case, as many as 1,700 individuals may have either falsified their own data or whose personal information was used by someone else to gain fraudulent entry into the country.

{snip} As a former Refugee Coordinator who served throughout the Middle East, Africa, Russia and Cuba, I saw first-hand the flagrant abuses and scams that permeate the refugee program. I witnessed widespread exploitation and misuse, from identity fraud to marriage and family relation scams, and from private individuals profiting from their involvement in USRAP to distortion of the actual refugee definition to ensure greater numbers of people who should really just be migrants are admitted as refugees.

As early as the 1990s, fraudulent refugee claims were commonplace in the still-operating U.S. refugee program in Cuba and among the tens of thousands of Somalis who entered the United States in the early 2000s under false identities. This type of systemic fraud has been regularly overlooked or willfully ignored. {snip}


Midway into fiscal year 2018, fewer than a quarter of the 45,000 individuals proposed in the FY18 refugee ceiling have entered the country. This slow-down in admissions may reduce the problem of fraud, but it cannot be eliminated without a complete overhaul of the program.