In his maiden speech at the United Nations General Assembly, President Donald Trump criticized the Assad-led Syrian Government for outrageous attacks on her citizens and reiterated that the United States Government would devise a feasible plan for the return of refugees to their homeland. In his words, “the humanitarian services of the agencies of the United Nations are commendable as they provided tremendous support in regions taken from ISIS. The brotherly love shown by Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey in the hosting of displaced persons during the conflict period is appreciated.
He also confirmed the financial support from the United States to the tune of billions of dollars and had been working for the actualization of policies that will allow refugees go back to their countries and form a team that will reconstitute their nations.
According to him, the expense of making a displaced person settle properly in the United States is sufficient to take care of the needs of ten refugees in their home country. We provided financial help to hosting countries in the region, and we also stuck with the provisions of our treaties with the G-20 countries that will assist in offering accommodation for refugees that are closer to their home nations. We believe this is the safest and humanitarian method to reach out to the refugees.
Though we cannot confirm the authenticity of the President’s assertion about the cost of resettling a refugee in the United States is enough to assist more than ten displaced individuals in their home country. We later discovered that the process of donating assistance to these displaced persons is complicated and this is the real reason we could not verify or discredit the statement of the President.
The United States Health and Human Services Department (HHS) informed us that various mainstream programs and federal departments also assist the displaced individuals and this act has been calculating the per-capita cost hard to collate. According to the submission of the independent professionals, they stated that some refugees are in the United States to migrate on a permanent basis while other evacuees in nearby nations are only there to receive humanitarian assistance without an intention of staying back in the countries that hosted them. They aim to leave the country and return home when they get the aid. There is no need to compare these cases as they are not similar. The complications of the calculations will enable us to have a comparison of the procedure of resettling refugees in the United States and the provision of resettlement assistance for the refugees in their home country. We are yet to get a response from the White House on the issue.
AN OVERVIEW OF REFUGEES IN THE UNITED STATES
Before their arrival on the shores of the United States of America, refugees go through a stringent process. As soon as they get to America, they are qualified for financial help from the office of Refugee Resettlement within HHS. The components of the assistance include medical and financial aid, provision of a foreign language class in English, employment opportunities and job training.
In the 2016 fiscal year, the United States hosted 84,995 refugees according to the figures issued by the United States Department data. The 2017 fiscal year which is coming to an end on 30th of September has witnessed the arrival of 52,282 displaced persons in the United States. The previous administration led by Barack Obama had fixed the number of the refugees’ admission capacity for the 2017 fiscal year at 110,000 while the present government of Donald Trump wanted it reduced. Trump has observed that the influx of more than 50,000 displaced individuals in the 2017 fiscal year would be not in the best interests of the United States. The State Department said it spent close to $545 million on the United States Refugee Admissions Program in the 2016 fiscal year. The costs comprise the expenses for transportation, reception, placement, and processing. An expert reliably informed us that these refugees bear the overall cost of their flight tickets.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement in HHS also reported that about $1.6 billion was spent on Refugee and Entrant Assistance. The Refugee and Entrant Assistance funds program have to assist Cuban and Haitian entrants, refugees, individuals who are seeking asylum, refugees, victims of human trafficking, Special Immigrant Visa holders, torture survivors, and unaccompanied kids who were detained by the immigration officers pending the determination of their case. Close to $697 million was spent on resettlement by the Refugee and Entrant Assistance in 2016 according to the revelation of the Refugee Council USA, a union of non-governmental organizations that offers succor for refugees.
WHAT IS THE COST OF RESETTLING A REFUGEE? NOT CLEAR
According to Victoria Palmer, the spokesperson for HHS, she opined that there is a significant variation in the amount and form of federal help offered to a refugee while he or she is still qualified to stay in the United States. Moreover, the provision of medical and financial support are managed at the state level; the sum can be different based on the state where the refugee is located.
THE ESTIMATES AND EXPERT OPINIONS
The issue of the economic benefits of hosting the refugees and the expenses of taking care of them is a contentious matter of discussion.
The Center for Immigration studies released in November 2015 which tend to favor a lower level of immigration discovered a $64,370 expense to taxpayers per displaced person from the Middle East over the period of the refugee’s first five years in the United States of America. The study also observed that the cost of resettling a single refugee from the Middle East in the United States could be utilized to provide help for twelve refugees in the Middle East for five years or make provision for sixty-one refugees in a year. The report confirmed its five-year resettlement estimates were from the figures acquired from the State Department and other agencies within HHS in 2013.
According to the CIS analysis, the factors responsible for the increase in expenses are the first disbursements by the Office and Refugee Resettlement, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and the consumption of welfare packages by the refugees of the Middle East descent.
Professionals warned against making a cost-effectiveness case founded on these two forms of support like Donald Trump. Michelle Mittelstadt who is a director of communications and public affairs at the Migration Policy Institute observed that the expenses of interim first asylum in a nearby nation and the costs of resettling in a new country cannot be compared with each other as they are entirely different. According to her, a temporary asylum is a charitable response to ensure individuals are alive while resettlement provides the refugees the opportunity to put their lives back on track. She also explained that people who are living in countries of first asylum are not privileged to have a means of livelihood; their wards are not offered educational opportunities to study in schools. These people live an interrupted lifestyle and yielding to the suggestion that leaving refugees in nations of the first asylum is cheaper than resettlement is not a real decision.
For example, the economy of Syria is not as buoyant as the economy of the United States of America in the words of Alessandra Von Borg, a communications professor at Wake Forest University. He has worked with refugees in North Carolina. He also asserted that the provision of food and medical assistance is offered by various international organizations and support from the United States of America due to the weak nature of the Syria economy, this has made the comparison of costs a herculean task. The medical expenses in Europe and the Middle East are comparably lower when compared to medical expenditures in the United States making a right judgment a tough one.
According to Miriam Potocky who is an expert on refugee resettlement and a professor at the School of Social Work at Florida International University, she said President Trump made an unrealistic analysis in his speech. She said that those displaced refugees who are residents in the closer nations do not have the rights, quality of living, and opportunities available to individuals who are resettled in the United States of America. Though the President might be right in his costs calculation, there is a huge difference between residing in a refugee camp where there are no means to acquire education, housing, and means of livelihood and resettled in the United States to have another chance to have an improved life.
There are other arguments from other experts who emphasized on the economic benefits of resettling these refugees on the countries that helped them. David Martin, an emeritus professor at the University of Virginia, said refugees who are residing in the camp cannot contribute to the development of their host country as they do not have jobs while those are resettled can make a meaningful impact in the society as they get acclimatized to their new environment.
In March, President Trump sent a memo to the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson with a request for the overall estimate of long-term expenses at all government levels in conjunction with the United States Admission Program. He also sought for means to reduce these expenditures, and a comprehensive description of the estimated population of refugees offered help in nations of first asylum (close to their home countries) for a similar long-term expense of supporting them in the United States.
Martin and nine other experts in the refugee affairs and immigration sent a letter to the Secretary of State stating that the request from the President is not a viable solution to the problems. The letter was signed by senior immigration and refugee bureaucrats from the previous Democratic and Republican administrations. According to them, a reliable study must also cover social, long-term economic and fiscal advantages of refugee resettlement.
Jen Smyers said that resettling a refugee can be more expensive than giving out food to individuals in the camp when viewed from a short-term perspective but when we consider it from the long-term perspective, resettlement is cheaper. Jen Smyers is a director of Policy and Advocacy for the immigration and refugee program with the Church World Service, an agency that helps to provide resettlement services for refugees on behalf of the United States Government.
There was a report in the New York Times on September 18 that the United States under the Trump administration has prohibited a study from HHS that observed a $63 billion positive fiscal influence from refugees over a 10- year period. In contrast, the White House has accused the New York Times of being biased, and the report was politically manipulated to tarnish the reputation of the Trump administration. The White House created another study which proved that the per-capita expenses for refugees are higher than American citizens.
There have been deliberations about the number of refugees that should be given access to the United States and their economic importance to the American nation. President Trump has been working in collaboration with the Congress to know the highest number of displaced persons that will be offered access into the country for this fiscal year (Oct1- Sept.30). The President still has till the 1st of October to determine the refugee limit for the 2018 fiscal year.