Refugees are people who are authorized to come to the United States because they are determined to be fleeing individual persecution by their home government. To qualify as a refugee, a person must meet the following definition from Section 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act: "any person who... is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country [their home country] because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion...."
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) currently recognizes about 22.5 million worldwide as bona fide refugees. However, given the proliferation of failed or failing states, and civil conflicts around the world, that number could increase exponentially in coming years. The ability to relocate refugees in the U.S. or other Western democracies is very limited. There are many things to consider when determining how we should prioritize resettlement, including finding out who is in the most imminent danger, who is least likely to be able to return home, and who can be effectively screened to ensure they do not pose a danger to the United States.
Efforts on behalf of refugees whose situations do not meet these priorities should be re-directed away from resettlement and toward helping displaced populations take temporary shelter as close to their home countries as possible. This is smart policy for two reasons.
First, the U.S. Committee for Refugees has estimated that a day's worth of funding needed to settle a single refugee in the U.S. would cover the needs of at least 12 refugees abroad. Second, by allowing a mass migration of refugees with expedited screening, particularly those from places where religious or political violence is endemic, we open ourselves up to possible terrorist threats. Oftentimes we cannot perform proper screening or background checks on these refugees because in some cases they arrive without any form of identification and hail from countries that are either not cooperative with the U.S., or have no functioning civil structure. Thus, it's often nearly impossible to distinguish legitimate refugees from terrorists.
In 2016, roughly 85,000 refugees were resettled in the U.S. Approximately 12,318 of them came from Syria, Iran and Sudan, -- countries considered "State Sponsors of Terrorism" – by the U.S. State Department. The Trump administration issued a moratorium on refugees from 11 "high-risk" countries in January 2017 and then lifted the pause in 2018 after stricter vetting measures for applicants from those nations were in place.
A FAIR cost analysis of resettling refugees in the United States shows the annual cost to U.S. taxpayers is $1.8 billion, and over five years, that financial burden skyrockets to $8.8 billion. Based on the U.S. Committee for Refugees’ analysis, the cost of resettling 85,000 refugees in the U.S. could have provided assistance to more than a million refugees requiring temporary protection.
- Immigration Basics: Refugees | FAIR Fact Sheet
- Trump Administration Restarts Refugee Program for 11 High Risk Countries | The Washington Times
- Video: FAIR President Dan Stein on what the U.S. policy Should be Toward Refugees
- "Global Forced Displacement Hits Record High" | United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, June, 20, 2016
- The Fiscal Cost of Resettling Refugees in the United States | A FAIR cost study
- Aiding Refugees Does Not Mean Mass Resettlement | FAIR Op-Ed
- We Must Protect Refugees and Protect National Security | FAIR Op-Ed