Here is an opinion piece from The Tennessean (published while I was away over the weekend) once again highlighting the problems encountered in many states regarding the supposed speedy self-sufficiency refugees are said to attain upon resettlement. Even if we didn’t have the facts and figures, it defies logic that tens of thousands of third-worlders, many with no English and little formal education, are arriving in the US and becoming self-sufficient within months.
Reacting to public concern about the U.S. refugee program and not wanting to lose another city for its resettlement program, the U.S. State Department mounted a charm offensive in Nashville recently.
The visit from Washington consisted of a press conference preceded by small group meetings involving David Robinson, the director of the State Department’s refugee bureau; local program participants; a lobbyist; and state legislators.
Tennessee’s law allowing localities to request a “time out” from the program if social services are shown to be overly burdened was deemed compatible with federal law. Why it was needed at all was the question raised during the visit. After all, according to Tennessee’s state refugee coordinator, refugees “are financially self-sufficient within a few months and are not dependent on public welfare.”
Actually, a federal study of refugees who arrived in a recent five-year period shows high welfare usage among refugees. Almost 45 percent of refugees in this group ages 16 and older are on Medicaid (TennCare in Tennessee — 35 percent funded by state taxes). According to a Metro Nashville Social Services report: “More services will be needed for the refugee and immigrant population. More translation services are needed now. Currently, there is more demand for rent, utilities, medical and transportation assistance.”
Readers might also wish to visit the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s 2008 annual report to Congress and note that on pages 92 to 94 are some very interesting tables about welfare usage (in 2008! imagine what it is today!). We learned early in the report that the refugee program costs the US taxpayer around $1 billion per year (for on average 60,000-80,000 refugees). And that doesn’t include some of the costs on Table II (page 92).
Nearly 30% of refugees that year were on some type of cash assistance, 44% were receiving medicaid or other money for medical costs, 24% were getting assistance with housing and a whopping 50% were receiving food stamps.
On page 93 is another interesting table which tells us the big users of “public assistance” in 2008 were the Africans and Middle Easterners. Hmmmm!
The states with the highest welfare usage were 1) California (no surprise), 2) Missouri (surprise) 3) Washington State (page 94).
Tennessee is the only state in the Nation which has taken steps to ascertain just exactly how much the refugee program is costing the state in order to better get a handle on this issue of “self-sufficiency” trumpeted by federal contractors like Catholic Charites. New Hampshire is also seeking a legal remedy that would allow a community to opt out of the program should the city (the taxpayers!) be unable to afford the public assistance costs of importing poverty to America.
Nashville is at the epicenter of the growing concern, not just about the cost of resettlement, but also about the cultural trauma experienced by communities receiving large numbers of Muslim refugees. We have a whole category on Nashville, here. By the way, The Tennessean has generally been hostile to any criticism of immigration and you will see that if you visit some posts in the Nashville category.