American Values and Refugee Resettlement
U.S. media outlets relentlessly tout this country’s refugee-resettlement programs as representing “American Values.” The more, the merrier, they insist.USA Today, in an emotional and historically inaccurate editorial, recently blasted “the cruelty of Donald Trump’s refugee cap.”But data buried in a new government report raise questions about the sustainability of a massive resettlement program that cost American taxpayers $96.65 billion from 2005-2014. The price tag climbed to $125.696 billion when refugees’ spouses and children were included.The growing social-welfare costs – ranging from Medicaid and Medicare to child-care subsidies and low-income home energy assistance — exceed FAIR’s earlier estimate of $8.8 billion over five years.After the Obama administration doubled down by admitting 155,000 more refugees in the two years following 2014, President Trump capped the number at 30,000 for this fiscal year.Overheated journalists, left-wing politicians, and immigration enthusiasts characterize the reduction as tantamount to torching the Statue of Liberty. But the 30,000 figure is closer to historic levels. Critics also dismiss the myriad other forms of assistance the United States provides to care for the estimated 68.5 million people around the world who have been displaced from their homes due to wars, famines, and other natural and manmade disasters.Citing a backlog of 800,000 asylum cases, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “In consideration of both U.S. national security interest and the urgent need to restore integrity to our overwhelmed asylum system, the United States will focus on addressing the humanitarian protection cases of those already in the country.”In essence, administration critics want us to look only at the number of refugees resettled, while ignoring the exponentially larger number of asylum seekers who are in the country, the vast majority of whom are unlikely to leave even if their claims are denied.As immigration reporter Neil Munro wrote last week: “The huge cost [of refugees] adds up to $670 per working American, not counting the hard-to-assess costs of crowded schoolrooms, flooded labor markets, civic diversity, and shifts in political power away from Americans.”The United States is not walking away from its responsibility to provide relief to legitimate refugees around the world. Rather, we are (or should be) engaged in an effort to determine how we can best assist people in an age when unprecedented numbers are being uprooted by conflicts, environmental degradation, and an epidemic of failed states. Mass resettlement may be the least effective means to that end.
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