Americans Deserve a Say in Mass Migrant Resettlement
Planning a responsible annual budget involves diligently analyzing income and predicting expenditures, whether around the kitchen table, or governmentally at the local, state, or federal level. Recognizing needs and resources well in advance is essential, as is anticipating unexpected and uncontrollable expenses that may crop up. Household appliances break; unforeseen foreign conflicts occur that necessitate enhanced military spending.
Stuff happens, and forecasting is never perfect. That said, one increasingly common budget-busting item that frustrates advance planning, and which should never be permitted to emerge as an “uncontrollable,” are mass influxes of illegal migrants whose resettlement is thrust upon states and localities. Yet, dozens of communities are facing sudden and surging migrant flows forcing them to juggle budgets and reallocate limited resources in order to provide new arrivals with subsidized food, shelter, health care, education, and housing.
The costs are enormous. With 170,000 asylum seekers now in New York City — and more arriving each day — Mayor Adam’s best guess is that the city may incur a $12 billion expense through FY 2025. Costs are mounting elsewhere too, and how the funds are being distributed is somewhat of a mystery. As Axios reported, “Since October 2022, Chicago has spent $138 million to support the thousands of migrants arriving mostly from Texas, and the public has been left largely in the dark about where the money is going.”
Making thing worse, the federal government spent $363.8 million in fiscal year 2023 subsidizing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that facilitate the transit of migrants to local, already-overwhelmed, cities and towns.
To reinstate some semblance of order in municipal budgeting and planning, Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature have proposed a bill that would give communities in their state more say in how they manage their own affairs as it relates to proposed migrant resettlement. Lawmakers from every state should take note of Senate Bill 916:
- “(The bill) Provides a procedure for providing notice of, and designating local consultation regarding, certain refugee resettlement and assistance. Under the bill, if an employee or officer of a city, village, town, county, or school district (local governmental unit) contacts, or is contacted by the federal government or a private nonprofit voluntary agency regarding certain proposed placements of refugees in the local governmental unit, the employee or officer must report the contact to the chief elected official (placement report).”
The bill also requires all government officials within a 100-mile radius be informed, the formation of a committee of all affected jurisdictions and officials, and mandates public notification and subsequent public hearings.
Wisconsin Senate Bill 916 envisions a fully transparent, and deliberative process that would reverse the current practice by seven major Wisconsin NGOs bringing in migrants mostly from Myanmar, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo with little oversight. One organization, World Relief, has stirred controversy by promising to resettle an additional 75 migrants in the city of Eau Claire. U.S. Congressman Tom Tiffany objected saying that the refugees coming to Wisconsin won’t be properly vetted and the city did not share enough information with the public prior to the decision to resettle refugees in the area, nor did they solicit public input on the project.
Refugee resettlement is supposed to be done in consultation with the communities where the refugees are to be resettled. When it happens, it should not come as a surprise or an uncontrollable expense to state and local governments. It also requires that proper deterrence and legal standards are upheld in the initial vetting process, so that the country is not inundated with people who are abusing our asylum system. Doing so would prevent refugee resettlement from being an unanticipated, unfunded, and non-consensual mandate that shatters local budgets, forces last-minute, drastic cutbacks for local citizens, and violates participatory democracy upon which all governmental bodies – local, state, and federal – are based.
Jefferson’s advice resonates as the foundation of Wisconsin Senate Bill 916: “The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government.”
Hopefully, Wisconsin Senate Bill 916 will pass in the Badger State and serve as a model for other states as well. The public deserve to be informed and have a voice in the refugee resettlement policy debate, and for state officials managing taxpayer money, advance notice is an absolute must.
Better yet, the Biden administration needs to make sure that the people who are resettled are legitimate refugees, not asylum abusers. To achieve that goal, it will need to secure the border, enforce the law, and to assume fiduciary responsibility for how its actions impact thousands of American municipalities.