HIT THE PAUSE BUTTON NOW ON REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT
By James Simpson
On the first day of the new year, Islamic terrorists claimed another 39 victims in an attack at a popular nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey. As of this writing, the likely perpetrator has been identified but is still at large. The deadly Christmas truck attack which killed 12 and injured 56 in Berlin recalls the similar deadly July attack in Nice, France. The Berlin suspect, Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri, was killed in a shootout with Italian police on December 23. Amri had been denied asylum in Germany due to his terror risk, but was not deported because lacking a passport, Tunisia would not accept him. Amri carried 6 different aliases from three nations and had been monitored by German authorities. He was not a “lone jihadist” but part of an ISIS cell, and traveled covertly, like some of the Paris killers, with the refugee flow from the Mediterranean.
On the same day as the Berlin attack, there was a knife attack at the Vienna, Virginia, Dunn Loring Metro station by an African Muslim, Ali Ahmed Mohamound. Mohamound also carried several fake identity documents. Since his arrest, all reporting has ceased, with no information on his motive or immigration status. Calls to the Metro Transit Police go unanswered. A similar knife attack occurred in New York City the day before – suspect still at large. All this followed on the heels of November’s Ohio State knife attack by Somali Muslim refugee Abdul Artan. These attacks typify the kinds recommended in ISIS literature, and ISIS claims credit for most of them. With Berlin, Brussels, Orlando and so many other horrific attacks this year, San Bernardino and Paris almost seem like old news.
Though we view these events with horror and growing alarm, the outgoing Obama administration has accelerated an open door policy that is literally importing terrorists. President Obama added insult to injury three days before Christmas by ending a post 9-11 registry required of male immigrants from countries of terrorism concern.
Now more than ever, the U.S. refugee resettlement program must be put on hold. On his very first day in office, Donald Trump can do this. He does not need an act of Congress, an executive order, or even one of Obama’s illegal “executive actions”. The president has the authority under current law to reset refugee targets to zero for the rest of the year. All resettlement would come to an immediate halt, allowing the administration and Congress to save billions of dollars, evaluate and reform the program, and give communities that have begged for relief for years, a much needed break.
Because private resettlement contractors are paid by the head to resettle refugees and other needy populations, the resettlement program has built-in incentives for uncontrolled growth. This harmonizes with the Left’s open borders agenda – which seeks to swell the rolls of new Democrat voters while weakening the influence of traditional (read conservative) America. Big business shares this agenda in seeking cheap, subsidized labor. The resulting bipartisan alliance has long subsidized a resettlement industry that is expensive, secretive, duplicitous and unconcerned about the Americans who pay for it with hard earned tax dollars. The refugee resettlement program must be abolished in its current form before it puts us on the path toward today’s turbulent France and Germany.
The most important risk created by the current refugee resettlement program is terrorism. Since 9-11 there have been 580 convictions for terrorism in the U.S. At least forty were refugees. Just this year, in addition to the knife attacks by Abdul Artan and Ali Mohamound, four other refugees have committed or attempted to commit acts of terrorism. This September, Somali refugee Dahir Ahmed Adan stabbed 10 people in a Minnesota mall before being shot dead by an off-duty policeman. On the same weekend, Afghan refugee Ahmad Khan Rahami set off bombs in New York and New Jersey, injuring 29 people. Iraqi refugee Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan was convicted in October for attempting to help ISIS bomb two Houston malls. He conspired with Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, another Iraqi refugee, now incarcerated in Chicago.
Since March 2014 there have been 111 ISIS related arrests and 60 convictions. ISIS openly encourages “lone jihadi” attacks and the State Department now admits ISIS is trying to penetrate the U.S. refugee flow. Some 250 U.S. Muslims from 19 states have either joined or attempted to join ISIS overseas. Many have since returned with little or no oversight.
The Somali community has produced more ISIS wannabes than any other Muslim group in the U.S. Some have been killed in the fighting. Over 60 from Minnesota have attempted to join. Minneapolis just concluded a trial of 9 Somali men sentenced for up to 35 years on terrorism-related charges. U.S. District Judge Michael Davis concluded, “It’s clear… there is a jihadist cell in this community… We have to incapacitate this cell.” He added that, “Our own community won’t even live up to it and understand that what is happening is something that must be prosecuted.”
And let’s be clear: these are not Mennonite terrorists. They are not Episcopalian suicide bombers. Virtually all 580 convictions since 9-11 were Muslim immigrants or American Muslim converts. If the Trump administration is going to effectively confront this problem, it needs to name the enemy: Political Islam. As National Security Advisor designate Gen. Michael Flynn has said, ” “We can beat them, but we have to decide that this is an enemy first.”
The Obama administration has clearly not gotten that message. Despite the overt threat presented by members of the Somali community, the Department of Homeland Security has provided tours of airport facilities to groups of Somalis – including explanations of airport inner workings, security protocols and databases. DHS redacted some of this information as too sensitive to share with the public.
Dunn Loring knife attacker Ali Mohamound was carrying multiple identities when arrested. Ohio State terrorist Abdul Artan and his family lived in Pakistan for 7 years before being resettled to the U.S. Why were they not simply resettled in Pakistan? Afghani refugee Ahmad Rahami, the terrorist bomber of New York and New Jersey, originally entered the U.S. through the asylum program, but then traveled back to Afghanistan, where he apparently became radicalized. How can someone who flees his home country for his life go back for a visit – never mind getting radicalized there?
Virtually all U.S. Somalis originally arrived as refugees or asylum seekers or are their children. Many now take months-long trips back to Somalia, in clear contradiction of their purported reason for seeking asylum: supposedly fleeing Somalia for their lives. Minneapolis actually grants rent relief because Somalis complained about the cost of overdue rent upon their return from visits to the home country. Why do we continue to resettle tens of thousands of Somali Muslim “refugees” annually when they regularly travel back to Somalia for vacations and business? The home country visits made by so many “refugees” undercut the entire program’s integrity.
The entire refugee resettlement program has systematic fraud, creating both national security risks and undue fiscal burdens. Refugee advocates claim the vetting process for Syrians is airtight, but U.S. security officials say exactly the opposite. An internal ICE memo states, “[The] refugee program is particularly vulnerable to fraud due to loose evidentiary requirements where at times the testimony of an applicant alone is sufficient for approval.” The memo goes on to say that “the immigration system is a constant target for exploitation…” by terrorists. Jan Ting, who served as assistant commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1990 – 1993, has been quoted as saying that 95 percent of refugee/asylee applications are fraudulent.
Refugees are classified by priority. Priority 1 (P-1) regards refugees referred to the State Department by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, a U.S. embassy or NGO involved in resettlement. Priority 2 (P-2) regards groups of “special humanitarian concern” to the U.S. Priority 3 (P-3) regards family reunification for refugees already resettled.
The P-3 program was suspended in 2008 when over 80 percent of applications were deemed fraudulent. Now using random DNA checks of applicants, the program has resumed. A 2009 USCIS asylum compliance report found only 30% of applications with no fraud but over 90 percent of Syrian asylum applications are approved – despite the lack of verifiable information about the applicants. The Obama administration has knowingly and routinely allowed illegal aliens falsely claiming asylum to remain in the U.S. A September 2016 DHS Inspector General report found that 1,982 aliens from countries known for immigration fraud or terror-links, who were scheduled for deportation, were instead granted citizenship using false identities because fingerprint records were missing.
The U.N. selects almost all refugees and the U.S. takes more refugees than all other resettlement nations combined. Yet, many of the tens of thousands of unvettable Syrians who are accepted don’t meet the refugee definition. A refugee is someone who is “unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion… individuals who have crossed an international border fleeing generalized violence are not considered refugees under either the 1951 Convention or the 1967 Optional Protocol.” (Emphasis added).
Syrian Christians are facing genocide, and certainly do meet the definition, but represent less than 1 percent of those Syrians resettled so far. Syrian Muslims are over 98 percent of the total. In the interest of diplomacy we are also resettling populations other countries refuse to take. Most recently, the Obama administration offered to accept 2,465 asylum seekers now being detained by Australia which that country refuses to accept because of their possible ties to terrorism. In response to congressional inquiries, the administration has declared information about this agreement classified.
Refugee resettlement is administered by three agencies: the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), the Health and Human Services Department, Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The program has grown and metastasized over the years. It now encompasses Resettlement, Asylum, the Cuban/Haitian Entrant program, Special Immigrant Visas, Victims of Trafficking and the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program.
Last minute FY 2017 request
In FY 2016, the program cost $2.4 billion, an increase of 205.4 percent since FY 2009. The Obama administration initially requested $2.9 billion for FY 2017, a single year increase of 21 percent. ORR was to receive $2.2 billion of that, but at the last minute Obama boosted ORR’s request to $3.9 billion to handle the unprecedented flow of minors now being apprehended at the Southwest border – 14,128 in the past two months alone and a 106 percent increase for the year. Congress provided a pro-rata share – $500 million – of this request in the short-term continuing resolution passed on December 9. (See pp. 17, 18). However that money cannot be expended until February 1, when the new HHS secretary, Senator Tom Price, has been installed. He can legally use the discretion provided in CR language to withhold some or all of those funds. It remains to be seen whether or not he will.
Populations Served by HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement
(from FY 2017 HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement Budget Request)
The table above shows the numbers resettled by category, a total of 195,231 individuals in FY 2015. This represents 20 percent of all immigrants allowed into the U.S. annually. The numbers will be significantly higher this year if nothing is done. Since FY 2009, approximately 1 million migrants have arrived through these programs. Program costs average about $10,000 per head in the first year, and refugee welfare use is off the charts – even after five years. (See table below). In fact, refugees resettled in the 1980s still receive welfare at rates well in excess of Americans and other immigrants.
The Center for Immigration Studies has estimated the annual cost of resettling Muslim refugees during the first five years at $12,874 per head. Muslim refugees use welfare at higher rates than average. I have estimated a somewhat lower average of $11,574 per head by applying percentages in the table below to the most recent estimates of relevant welfare program outlays, plus program costs per head. Cumulatively for the years 2009 through 2015, this cohort alone has cost U.S. taxpayers a staggering $48 billion.
Excluded from this count are the families of asylum seekers, called Follow to Join, (50,000 or more since 2011), Humanitarian Parole – supposed to be decided on a case by case basis but now illegally extended to certain Central American Minors and other groups – (at least 256,000 since 2008), Diversity Visas (50,000 per year), and Temporary Protected Status (as of February 2016 approximately 350,000 individuals from 13 nations).
Heavy Toll on Communities
State and local costs are significant. When the Refugee Act was first passed, the federal government promised to cover 36 months of states’ share of TANF, Medicaid, RCA and RMA for refugees – a huge subsidy. Today it covers no state costs. Refugees rely heavily on local general assistance, and costs for translation and other services have exploded. Following is a sampling of problems created by refugees in many U.S. communities:
- Amarillo, TX: 911 calls taken in 36 languages
- Amarillo, TX: ESL tutoring $1300/student/month, feds provide $100/student/year
- Buffalo, NY: 42 languages spoken in High School
- Lynn, MA: 49 languages spoken – some in unknown Guatemalan highlands dialects
- Lynn, MA: 200% increase in vaccinations; foreign student K-12 admissions doubled
- Manchester, NH: 82 languages in high school – among lowest school ratings in NH
- Minneapolis, MN: Somali unemployment rate 21%.
- Minneapolis, MN: Somalis heavy ISIS recruitment target
- Minnesota: over 1/2 Somali population in poverty
- Rochester, NY: refugees and inner city minorities clash
- Utica, NY: 15% of student body speaks 42 languages in High School
- Nationwide: 20%-49% of refugees test positive for latent TB
- Nationwide: 66% active TB cases among foreign born, 13 times U.S. born rate
- Nebraska: 82% of active TB cases are among foreign born
- Nationwide: refugees take low wage jobs; but bring their own problems.
Nine private contractors, called “Voluntary Agencies or VOLAGs, resettle refugees with the assistance of 320 “affiliates“. VOLAGs are supposed to consult communities before resettling refugees but almost never do. They secretly resettle refugees and leave communities to deal with the resulting problems. They regularly withhold information from community leaders and concerned citizens. Local leaders’ complaints are routinely ignored.
Refugee resettlement is having a major impact in small communities throughout the U.S. – a major reason for growing resistance to the program. In one example, a federal agent who must remain anonymous contacted me in November to describe numerous meetings he and other agents attended in Northern Michigan. He said citizens and public officials from Traverse City and elsewhere expressed concerns over the indiscriminate “dumping” of refugees and illegal aliens in small towns and hamlets, including the Upper Peninsula, under cover of darkness, without any prior coordination with appropriate public officials (i.e. mayors, town councils, etc.).
VOLAGs stress secrecy. Former Bosnian refugee, Amila Merdzanovic, director of the affiliate Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program (VRRP), counsels:
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of not sharing the information… move slowly, keep it to a small circle of people, and then expand… if we open it up to anybody and everybody, all sorts of people will come out of the woodwork. Anti-immigrant, anti-anything.
Refugees like Merdzanovic are often employed in the resettlement industry, giving refugees a stake in the resettlement program’s maintenance and growth. Many VOLAG leaders who receive refugee resettlement federal grants are former directors of the federal agencies that administer those grants, and vice versa. Like a revolving door, they cycle in and out of government.
For example, current PRM Assistant Secretary Ann Richard, is the former Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy for the International Rescue Committee, one of the nine VOLAGs. Like many in the refugee business, she is also a hardcore ideologue. She helped found the International Crisis Group, a leftist organization funded by George Soros.
VOLAGs receive a total of about $1 billion/year, and are paid by the head, receiving anywhere from $2,025 to more than $5,000 per refugee. This creates a strong incentive for VOLAGs constantly to resettle more refugees, whether or not it is in the interest of the refugee or the target community. So for example, the VOLAGs have lobbied intensively for more Syrian refugees, and feign outrage that we only committed to resettle 10,000 Syrians in FY 2016. They fail to mention that over 102,000 Syrians have already resettled in the U.S. via other immigrant and non-immigrant programs since the Syrian civil war began. The Government Accountability Office has reported:
One state refugee coordinator noted that local affiliate funding is based on the number of refugees they serve, so affiliates have an incentive to maintain or increase the number of refugees they resettle each year rather than allowing the number to decrease.
David M. Robinson, who would later lead PRM, said of the refugee industry:
The solution its members offer to every refugee crisis is simplistic and the same: increase the number of admissions to the United States without regard to budgets or competing foreign policy considerations. On the other hand, it is politically well connected, includes major party donors at the local and national levels, and owns the moral high ground on an extremely emotional issue.[*]
VOLAGs have not faced any kind of meaningful oversight since the program was established in 1980. None have ever faced a public financial audit despite many calls to do so. The program is biased toward continual growth, and security concerns must be addressed.
Refugees Come First
The Refugee Act of 1980 dictates benefits that refugees must receive upon entering the U.S. They go to the front of the line for welfare, jumping ahead of all Americans, including veterans and the disabled. Waiting lines for public housing is months to years for Americans, but refugees are placed immediately in fully furnished dwellings. VOLAGs provide:
- Decent, safe, sanitary, affordable housing in good repair
- Essential furnishings
- Food, food allowance
- Seasonal clothing
- Pocket money
- Assistance in applying for public benefits, social security cards, ESL, employment services, non-employment services, Medicaid, Selective Service
- Assistance with health screenings and medical care
- Assistance with registering children in school
- Transportation to job interviews and job training
- Home visits
Additionally, ORR and other agencies provide numerous special grants available only to refugees. This is supposedly to enable refugees to rapidly become economically self-sufficient. However, ORR’s definition of “economic self-sufficiency” allows refugees to continue to receive every kind of welfare there is except cash assistance from TANF or RCA. Refugees thus have a strong incentive to seek U.S. resettlement to obtain benefits and a strong tendency to remain on the welfare rolls for years. Maine governor Paul LePage told me that elderly autistic residents of Portland, Maine are swelling the rolls of the homeless as their primary caretakers, usually their parents, die or become unable to care for them, because public housing is taken by refugees.
The resettlement program is dangerous, expensive and unfair to Americans. It’s structure encourages endless growth, systemic corruption, cronyism, secrecy and duplicity. The refugee program must be put on hold. Members of Congress have called for a moratorium and there is legislation circulating on the Hill to do this. (See for example H.R. 3314, the Resettlement Accountability National Security Act, with 86 co-sponsors.) But legislation isn’t needed. On his first day in office, Donald Trump can pause the entire program by simply resetting the annual refugee targets to whatever number has already been reached so far this fiscal year. The 1980 Refugee Act gives him authority to do this.
President-Elect Trump has stated his desire to halt resettlement from nations of terrorism concern. This can be accomplished by resetting annual regional targets to exclude them, but it would be wiser to pause the entire program.
It costs 12 times as much to resettle refugees as it does to assist them in place. Almost all refugees, if asked, would prefer to return home than be resettled to a third country. President-Elect Trump’s idea to create “safe zones” in or near countries of conflict is a much more compassionate and cost-effective method of dealing with the refugee crisis. President Trump’s State Department should engage with the Gulf States to encourage their participation in resettlement. Currently the Gulf States offer little if any help.
The VOLAG system needs to be abolished. There is no other way to remove the adverse incentives that have created today’s out-of-control resettlement program. Asylum and other alternative forms of resettlement should operate on a case-by-case basis. The Cuban/Haitian Entrant program has exploded, currently importing over 60,000 annually. Resettlement has morphed into an alternative immigration program. It serves as a dumping ground for high risk populations and a simplistic solution to refugee crises – all underwritten by American taxpayers.
Resettlement should be returned to the private act of charity it was before 1980. That structure would be naturally self-limiting, and those financing resettlement would have a much stronger incentive to see that their charitable dollars were not wasted on frauds or potential terrorists. Refugees should be required to become truly economically self-sufficient – not eligible for the smorgasbord of special benefits they receive now.
With such restrictions, other nations would have to confront and resolve conflicts they now off-load onto America. The U.S. government role should be limited to security: helping create safe zones, identifying other countries that might help more, designating those populations suitable for resettlement, setting numerical limits, and vetting all refugees, asylum seekers and others seeking U.S. entry. With new leadership, policies and management, the State Department, USCIS and HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement can reinvent the resettlement program to serve America’s interests in the 21st Century and make America great and safe again.
[*] David M. Robinson, “How Public Opinion Shaped Refugee Policy in Kosovo,” National Defense University, National War College, Course 5603, Seminar L, 2000. 4.
James Simpson is an investigative journalist, businessman and former economist and budget examiner for the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Since 1995, he has written non-fiction articles for various periodicals based both on his experiences in government and business, and a longstanding avocation in public policy.
Mr. Simpson is an expert on immigration and refugee resettlement. His most recent book is The Red Green Axis: Refugees, Immigration and the Agenda to Erase America.
Mr. Simpson’s groundbreaking work on the Cloward-Piven Manufactured Crisis Strategy, introduced the world to the diabolical method former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel referred to when he said “never let a good crisis go to waste”. His research formed the basis for Glenn Beck’s series on Cloward an Piven.
His articles and research work have been published in Accuracy in Media, American Thinker, Breitbart, Capital Research Center, Daily Caller, PJ Media, Washington Times, Watchdog, WorldNet Daily and elsewhere.