Salt Lake City Tribune undertakes large investigation into refugee resettlement program

Wow!  This is impressive!   The Salt Lake City Tribune has apparently undertaken a major effort to explore the Refugee Resettlement Program in Utah.   If every newspaper in every city experiencing refugee overload did the same it would go a long way to keep tensions from building around a federal program that is in desperate need of reform.  

The puff-piece articles normally written about refugees—you know, ‘African refugee sees first snow’ garbage—serve only to disguise problems that everyone knows exist.   They don’t help the citizens understand what is happening in their communities and that does a disservice to refugees as well.

I’m not going to write about all the articles in this series, but note that each one has a sidebar with links to other articles in the series.   The one I am writing about here is the most balanced article I’ve ever read on the Refugee Resettlement Program (and not because it quotes me and Don Barnett, but that helps!).

It begins with a discussion about a Vietnamese man who was one of the ‘boat people’ we resettled in the wake of the Vietnam war.

Ly and his father, Hoang Tuoi Ly, lived for months in a jungle island refugee camp in Malaysia before heading for the U.S. When they finally arrived on a winter morning at Salt Lake City International Airport, Ly wore camp-issued flip-flops, a woman’s blouse and slacks.

“We would do anything for freedom,” says Ly, now a chief engineer at Hill Air Force Base who, by all measures, has achieved the American dream.

His experience, though, is not shared by many of today’s refugees. More and more, they fail to attain even a shadow of the American dream. Ill-equipped for the United States’ tough-love approach that expects quick assimilation, many live in poverty. Hope for a better life soon turns to despair.

“Most of the refugees from Burma are saying, … ‘We want to go back,’ ” says Zaw Htike of the Utah Department of Workforce Services, who works with fellow Burmese.

The article then goes on to say that there just isn’t enough taxpayer money in the refugee program to help all the diverse refugees we are bringing (no one ever asks if that means we are bringing too many!)   Lavinia Limon, head of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (we have written about her on other occasions) not suprisingly is singing the taxpayers should pay tune.  And, while she doesn’t say the word ‘xenophobe’ she suggests that malady is behind a growing critical trend.

Don Barnett, a critic of the program for the last two decades says the problem is that charity has long since been forgotten when the government steps in to pay for everything.   That is one of the major differences with the earlier program (before the Refugee Act of 1980) that Mr. Ly experienced.   He was cared for by an individual family until he was assimilated and on his way to higher education and a successful life.

The refugee program has been neglected for a number of reasons, Limon says. Support from the American public, while still strong, has eroded.

“People are more anti-foreign,” she says. “When we were in the Cold War, we knew who our enemies were and anyone fleeing Communism was alright by us.”
It’s harder to articulate who we want to rescue these days.
While there is no national effort pushing reform, critics say fundamental change is needed.

Don Barnett, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, says resettlement agencies are a “refugee industry,” more about making money than helping refugees get settled.
“They are federal contractors. They are not charities,” he says.

Limon says the taxpayers should pay:

Limon, the longtime refugee advocate, bristles at suggestions that resettlement agencies’ work should be funded entirely by charity.
“If America as a nation has decided that bringing refugees to our shores is good, why would we expect it all to be done without any taxpayer money?” she asks.

Although there is at this point no national reform effort, it is on the way, because the more they hear about the program, the more people are bristling about paying for a program that seems to be in complete disarray as other articles in this series attest.

It is not as Ms. Limon says that Americans are more anti-foreign, it’s mostly because we object to paying for refugee resettlement where refugees are neglected by those contracted to resettle them.  Or, where refugees refuse to assimilate as some Muslim refugees have demonstrated.  In other cases refugees have said they don’t even want to be here.   Expressing this is not being “anti-foreign.”

I think Ms. Newland of the Migration Policy Institute has it right when she said this to the Tribune:

Most Americans “like the idea of us as a nation of refuge,” she says. “As long as people feel the system is not gamed or taken advantage of, they’ve been supportive.”

There is no doubt in my mind that the system is being gamed.

Congressman Lamar Smith reminds us of the cost to America of low-skilled immigrants

Your tax dollars:

This week as I, and you too I presume, became increasingly shocked at the precipitous fall of our economy, I wondered how on earth we could continue to import low-skilled immigrants to America.    Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) must have had this on his mind too when he blasted the US Chamber of Commerce on the bailout.  The Chamber said they supported the bailout and said it put Americans first.  In an opinion piece published this week,  Smith contends that the Chamber’s position on amnesty put a lie to that statement.

When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called on Congress to pass the financial rescue bill, they asked us to “put the American people first.” I agree with that sentiment. However, I can’t help but point out the irony of the Chamber’s statement given its own refusal to put the needs of the American people over those of illegal immigrants.

Smith then goes on to discuss other Chamber of Commerce positions regarding immigration and how those positions hurt Americans.

He reminds us of a study by the Heritage Foundation in the spring of 2007, “The fiscal costs of low-skilled households to the US taxpayer” by Robert Rector.   

According to a study by the Heritage Foundation, each low-skilled immigrant [legal and illegal] household received $30,160 in government benefits – including education, medical care, transportation and sanitation services – but paid only $10,573 in taxes. That means the average low-skilled immigrant household costs American taxpayers almost $20,000 per year. Also, the Center for Immigration Studies estimates that low-skilled American workers lose an average of $1,800 a year because of competition from low-skilled immigrants for their jobs. Driving down the wages of American workers is not a route to “economic opportunity” the chamber claims is its goal.

Like it or not I believe we have all had a lesson in economics over the last two weeks and it’s a pretty clear lesson.      As jobs are lost, people can’t pay taxes, or as people lose money in the stock market, money is not there to collect in taxes.   If people lose houses, then local governments can’t collect property taxes.  If people aren’t buying stuff, then sales taxes are not paid.   If taxes don’t flow to various levels of government there will be diminishing services by the government to those newly created poor people who will be demanding more services in the form of welfare from already bankrupt governments.   (To my tax expert friends, don’t laugh at my simplification!)

So, how on earth can any rational person continue to promote the importation of more low-skilled labor?

Whoever becomes President of the US in next month’s election will have to face this ‘nut-cracking’ issue, and they aren’t even talking about it!