Taxpayer bill to resettle 35,000 Mideast refugees: $2.3 billion

By Leo Hohmann

The Syrian civil war has caused 3.5 million refugees, with more than 350,000 being targeted by the United Nations for resettlement outside the region.
The Syrian civil war has caused 4 million refugees, with 400,000 targeted by the United Nations for resettlement outside the region.

It costs U.S. taxpayers nearly $65,000 to resettle one Middle Eastern refugee over the first five years, which is 12 times what it would cost to care for that same refugee in a neighboring country in the region, according to a new study.

The Center for Immigration Studies cites “heavy welfare use” as the main reason why refugees are so costly to resettle. This flies in the face of oft-quoted comments by U.S. mayors who claim refugees add to their tax base and promote economic growth, making for a more “culturally diverse” and “economically resilient” city.

The CIS study indicates they are more of a drain on the economy than a boost.

The $64,370 cost to U.S. taxpayers over five years is a “conservative estimate” presented in a new study released by CIS’ chief researcher and statistician.

If the U.S. takes in 35,000 refugees next year from countries like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, which is a reasonable estimate for fiscal 2016, it would cost the U.S. taxpayer $2.3 billion just in the first five years. This does not include the cost of refugees from non-Middle Eastern nations, which will be another 50,000 refugees costing at least another $2.5 billion.

Read the entire study on costs of Middle Eastern refugees at

The cost of resettlement includes heavy welfare use by Middle Eastern refugees, said the lead author of the study, Steven Camarota, the CIS’ director of research.

“Very heavy use of welfare programs by Middle Eastern refugees, and the fact that they have only 10.5 years of education on average, makes it likely that it will be many years, if ever, before this population will cease to be a net fiscal drain on public coffers – using more in public services than they pay in taxes,” he said.

As WND has reported numerous times, 91 percent of refugees from the Middle East receive food stamps, 68 percent receive cash assistance and 23 percent live in public housing. Costs also include processing refugees, cash assistance given to new refugees, and aid to refugee-receiving communities.

While the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement often claims that most refugees are self-sufficient within five years, that claim is deceiving.

The ORR defines “self-sufficiency” as any refugee that no longer receives cash welfare payments. A household is still considered “self-sufficient” if it is using any number of non-cash programs such as food stamps, public housing or Medicaid.

“So we have a pretty good idea of what refugees cost, and it’s a lot,” Camarota told WND. “This raises the question of what is the most effective way to help people, and it turns out helping them in their home country or in a neighboring country may be the most effective. You can’t just ignore that question. Right now the United Nations has a $2.5 billion deficit in helping refugees in the Middle East. Funding is limited.”

The Syrian civil war has caused 4 million displaced persons, according to the U.N. Most are being temporarily housed in camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, but the U.N. wants to permanently resettle at least 400,000 in neighboring countries. This is on top of the more than 1 million who have already migrated illegally to Europe.

“I think the public is sympathetic, but we’re not going to spend unlimited resources. Congress is neglecting a very important question if they don’t look at this, and it is a question of how best to help,” Camarota said. “It’s very costly, and this is a population that is extremely costly in terms of its usage of government services. You can’t just say, ‘I want to help,’ and not look at the costs.”

There are other advantages even for the refugees, he said.

“The material life might be better here, but there are other considerations. One example may be if they stay there once the war is over, they are much more likely to return home,” he said. “If they stay also in countries more culturally similar, they don’t have the disruption of adjusting to life in an alien society like America.”

Caring for refugees “in the region” is also “less disruptive to our society,” Camarota said.

“Unfortunately, we have had refugees come to the U.S. and commit terrorist acts, the most cited example being the Boston Marathon bombers, who came from the Caucuses as asylum seekers,” he said.

FBI Director James Comey has also warned Congress and the Obama administration that his agency is not capable of screening the Syrian refugees because the U.S. has no access to reliable intelligence data in that broken country.

Costs likely ‘much higher’

Camarota said the study used an extremely conservative methodology to come up with the cost, only using the costs that are tracked by government data.

“If you assume $12,500 as the national average per student per year and 28 percent of refugees are kids between 5 and 17, if gives you actual costs,” he said.

However, the study did not include many other costs, such as the cost of having to bring in mobile classrooms and eventually build new schools to deal with overcrowding. Nor does it include the cost of hiring new teachers, special tutors and language translators. Also not included in the study were costs such as energy assistance programs or refugee children using the Head Start program.

“So this is very conservative. The actual costs are higher, likely much higher,” Camarota said.

“It’s a lot to consider, but we can also help a lot more people with the same amount of money. Whatever amount you have to spend, you can do a lot more, 12 times more if you take the five-year costs to help them here, versus what it costs to help them in the Middle East for five years.”

camarota new study

Among the other findings:

  • 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.
  • The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has requested $1,057 to care for each Syrian refugee annually in most countries neighboring Syria.
  • For what it costs to resettle one Middle Eastern refugee in the United States for five years, about 12 refugees can be helped in the Middle East for five years, or 61 refugees can be helped for one year.
  • The UNHCR reports a gap of $2.5 billion in funding that it needs to care for approximately four million Syrians in neighboring countries.
  • The five-year cost of resettling about 39,000 Syrian refugees in the United States is enough to erase the current UNHCR funding gap.
  • Of Middle Eastern refugee households that have arrived in the last five years, 91 percent receive food stamps and 68 percent receive cash welfare.
  • The five-year costs of resettlement in the United States include $9,230 spent by the Office of Refugee Resettlement within HHS and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration within the State Department in the first year, as well as $55,139 in expenditures on welfare and education.

In 1970, fewer than 1 in 21 U.S. residents were foreign-born. Today is it nearing 1 in 7, and will soon eclipse every historical watermark and keep rising. Meanwhile, the wage compression enabled by long-term low-skilled migration has helped employers keep wages down beneath 1973 levels.

One of the fastest-growing categories of immigration is from the Middle East, driven in part by refugee resettlement. Here are some stats:

Muslim immigration at all-time high

As part of the annual admission of 1.1 million refugees, asylum-seekers and green cards holders, the United States resettles more than 100,000 migrants from Muslim nations. For instance, in 2013, the United States …

  • Issued 117,000 green cards to migrants from Muslim countries, including about 70,000 to migrants from just Middle Eastern countries
  • Admitted 40,000 designated refugees and asylum-seekers from all Muslim nations, of which approximately 30,000 come from the Middle East

Looking at just the Middle East over the last five years (FY ’09-’13), the United States …

  • Issued 400,000 green cards to migrants from the Middle East
  • Admitted 115,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from the Middle East

Looking at Muslim nations in general over the last five years (FY ’09-’13), the United States …

  • Issued 680,000 green cars to migrants from Muslim countries
  • Admitted 155,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from Muslim countries

Meanwhile, polling from Rasmussen shows:

  • 49 percent of voters think the correct admissions number for all Middle Eastern refugees is zero
  • 69 percent think it should be either zero or capped at 10,000
  • Only 5 percent would appear to support the current policy of admitting more than 100,000 in the next five years.

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