We are all busy working hard to pay our taxes and make a living, but please take time to hear who is dipping into your pocket now: the refugee resettlement program.LB 505, recently introduced in the Nebraska Legislature, seeks to make the financial piece of refugee resettlement “transparent” to citizens and those governing our state.
Here are a few facts that will hopefully peak your curiosity and motivate you to be actively involved.
“On average, each Middle Eastern refugee resettled in the United States costs an estimated $64,370 in the first five years, or $257,481 per household," according to “The High Cost of Resettling Middle Eastern Refugees” by Karen Zeigler and Steven A. Camarota, Center for Immigration Studies, November 2015.
This figure is “61 times what it costs to care for one Syrian refugee in a neighboring country for a single year or about 12 times the cost of providing for a refugee for five years,” Zeigler and Camarota said.
These figures do not include welfare and food stamps, many public schools costs, Head Start, Earned Income Tax Credit and more.
Heavy welfare use by Middle Eastern refugees include 91% receive food stamps and 68% receive cash assistance.
As of late 2016, of the 10,801 Syrian refugees allowed into the U.S. since 2011, only 56 — less than one half of a percent — are Christians. Over 98% are Muslim.
“According to the statistics maintained by the Homeland Security Department, about 17,000 students from the seven designated countries were allowed into the U.S. for the 2015-2016 school year. In 2015 more than 86,000 people from those countries arrived in the U.S. on other, non-immigrant visas and more than 52,000 others became legal permanent residents,” the Associated Press reported on Jan. 28 (“Trump order on refugees, Muslims sparks confusion, worry”)
Are many refugees coming to Nebraska? Yes.
In 2016 fiscal year, Nebraska led the nation in the number of refugees resettled per capita. The national average was 26 refugees per 100,000 residents – but Nebraska settled 76 per 100,000 residents. Think of the cost. No wonder we have a budget shortfall we are struggling with.
Who brings the refugees? The volunteer agencies, or “VOLAGS” in Nebraska, are Lutheran Family Services, Southern Sudan Community Association and Catholic Social Services.
These contractors provide $1 for every $2 of grant money received. The maximum grant money is $2,200 per head. Only 20% of the VOLAG contribution, or $440, must be in cash; the rest is “in kind.”
The money is paid by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) – thanks to our federal tax dollars. This “business” of bringing refugees is a big money maker and explains why they were speaking out against the President’s 120-day temporary ban.
In 2014, 82% of the active tuberculosis (Tb) cases in Nebraska were diagnosed in the foreign born population, which only makes up 6% of Nebraska’s total population.
In late November 2016, an active case of Tb was diagnosed in Benson High (Omaha), where 18.6% of the student body are foreign born students.
The testing of those near that student resulted in seven latent cases being identified. To protect our citizens, it is important that changes be made to our intake procedures.
By Kathy Wilmot, Beaver City