The federal government is preparing for another “surge” in refugees and this time they won’t be coming illegally from Central America.
The U.S. State Department announced this week that the first major contingent of Syrian refugees, 9,000 of them, have been hand-selected by the United Nations for resettlement into communities across the United States.
The announcement came Tuesday on the State Department’s website.
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WND reported in September that Syrians would make up the next big wave of Muslim refugees coming to the U.S., as resettlement agencies were lobbying for the U.S. to accept at least 75,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years.
Until now, the U.S. had accepted only 300 of the more than 3.2 million refugees created by the Syrian civil war in which ISIS, El Nusra and other Sunni Muslim jihadist rebels are locked in a protracted battle with the Shiite regime of Bashar al-Assad.
But the U.S. government has been the most active of all nations in accepting Islamic refugees from other war-torn countries, such as Iraq, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Now, the Syrians will be added to the mix. They are cleared for refugee status by the U.N. high commissioner on refugees (UNHCR), who assigns them to various countries. Once granted refugee status by the U.N. they are screened by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for any ties to terrorist organizations.
The State Department announcement makes it clear that the 9,000 refugees represent just the beginning of an extended program to accept more Syrians.
“The United States accepts the majority of all UNHCR referrals from around the world. Last year, we reached our goal of resettling nearly 70,000 refugees from nearly 70 countries. And we plan to lead in resettling Syrians as well,” the statement reads. “We are reviewing some 9,000 recent UNHCR referrals from Syria. We are receiving roughly a thousand new ones each month, and we expect admissions from Syria to surge in 2015 and beyond.”
The United States, with its commitment to accepting 70,000 displaced people a year, absorbs more refugees than all other countries combined. This number is understated, however, as once refugees get to the United States they are placed on a fast track to citizenship and are able to get their extended families to join them in the states under the government’s Refuge Family Reunification program.
The State Department works to place refugees in 180 cities across 49 states.
Despite the large numbers, the U.S. has come under criticism from aid groups for its pace in taking in refugees from the Syrian war, which is by far the largest refugee crisis of recent years, reported Ann Corcoran of Refugee Resettlement Watch.
U.S. officials say the resettlement program has moved slowly because the United Nations refugee agency, which they look to for referrals, didn’t begin making recommendations until late last year. And the United States takes 18 to 24 months on average to carefully vet each applicant to make sure he or she poses no security risk.
Muslim countries in the Middle East have so far not stepped up to permanently take in their Islamic brothers and sisters although the temporary refugee camps to which the Syrians have fled are in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.
The State Department announcement was careful to explain that the U.S. will take in only those Syrians who are “persecuted by their government.” Christians in Syria are being killed by ISIS and other Muslim rebels, not by “their government,” but the Sunni Muslims are being killed by the Shiite-led government.
It also would not take 18 to 24 months to “vet” Christian refugees for security purposes.
“There is no doubt the majority of Syrians to be admitted to the U.S. will be Muslims because it would be unlikely there would be a ‘security risk’ with the Christians,” according to Corcoran.
She said screening has become more rigorous since 2009, when authorities were alarmed to discover that two members of al-Qaeda had entered the country posing as Iraqi refugees. That concern has been sharpened by worries that fighters from the Islamic State militant group may try to enter the United States.
The United States has accepted nearly 2 million refugees from Muslim countries since 1992, WND previously reported. The authority for the resettlement program is the Refugee Act of 1980, signed into law by President Jimmy Carter.
On Tuesday, Anne C. Richard, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, said at a U.N. meeting in Geneva that the Obama administration was going to step up its efforts because the refugee outflow had swelled “to a mass exodus.”
At the Geneva meeting, 28 countries agreed to take in 66,000 refugees. But that was far short of the 300,000 Syrians that officials at the U.N. refugee agency believe need to be permanently resettled.
Corcoran alerted readers of her blog who live in cities already stocked with large numbers of refugees that they should contact their members of Congress if they have concerns about getting new shipments of displaced persons. The added burden that refugees put on social services has prompted several mayors in Massachusetts and New Hampshire to request that the federal government shut off the refugee spigot, as reported recently by WND. The mayor of Athens, Georgia, Nancy Denson, has requested that her city not be added to the list of cities accepting refugees until a full accounting of the costs can be tabulated.
Richard, in her announcement, said resettlement agencies and “charities” are already mobilizing to help the soon arrival of new Syrian refugees.
“Like most other refugees resettled in the United States, they will get help from the International Organization for Migration with medical exams and transportation to the United States. Once they arrive, networks of resettlement agencies, charities, churches, civic organizations and local volunteers will welcome them. These groups work in 180 communities across the country and make sure refugees have homes, furniture, clothes, English classes, job training, health care and help enrolling their children in school. They are now preparing key contacts in American communities to welcome Syrians.”
What Richard fails to mention is that most of the resettlement work done by the above network of agencies is taxpayer funded through various grants distributed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Refugee Resettlement Program.
The nine contractors that lobbied for more Syrian refugees are:
• Church World Service (CWS)
• Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)
• Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM)
• Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
• International Rescue Committee (IRC)
• U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)
• Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS)
• U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
• World Relief Corp. (WR)
The cost of resettling 70,000 refugees comes to just over $1 billion per year to the U.S. government, according to a State Department report for fiscal 2015. This includes running the program and issuing federal grants to the nine resettlement agencies. The $1 billion figure does not include the cost of the unaccompanied alien children program, supplying food stamps, subsidized housing, interpreters, Medicaid, WIC, temporary assistance to needy families (TANF) and educating the children, much of which falls to states and localities.
Corcoran estimates that, taken in total, the cost of the U.S. refugee resettlement program could run as high as $10 billion per year.
“Those numbers are just not obtainable,” she said.
That also does not include the potential cost of security risks. WND reported in September that 22 Somali-Americans brought in through the refugee program have been documented by the FBI to have left the country to fight for Al-Shabab, a terrorist organization in Somalia, while several others have gone to fight for the Islamic State, also called ISIS, in Syria. Dozens of others have been prosecuted for sending money or other material support to terrorist organizations.
Several of the resettlement agencies, such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have posted statements on their websites welcoming President Obama’s recent executive action granting amnesty to up to 5 million illegal aliens. The religious “charities” conduct their refugee resettlement work with government grants accounting for 90 to 98 percent of their budgets, as previously reported by WND.