A shocking new report about the potential scope of fraud within our refugee programs: State Department DNA testing found 80% of "family" being brought into the U.S. by refugees under one program are of no blood relation.
The United States signed the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees and our obligation to provide sanctuary for defined refugees.
NumbersUSA has always supported the United States taking "our fair share of the world's internationally recognized special needs refugees." In many years, we take a refugee number that is equivalent to half or more of the special needs refugees identified by international bodies and re-settled in third-party countries.
We are concerned about fraud that occurs in two major ways in our refugee programs:
Fraud No. 1 by 'Refugees' themselves:
Refugees, once chosen by the U.S., may bring or send for family members. But large numbers of refugees engage in fraud through this process.
Because of the rampant nature of this fraud, in October of 2008, the State Department suspended all applications for family reunification by U.S.-based refugees under the P-3 Visa program.
The State Department reported that DNA matches were found in fewer than 20 percent of all cases tested!
The suggestion of an 80 percent fraud rate is deeply troubling. Can there be any integrity in the family part of the refugee program?
Refugee advocates have challenged relying solely on DNA testing to validate the relationship between refugees and their family members. They say that in refugee communities kinship is often wider than blood ties.
"A village is burning. People are running. Someone grabs a child and ends up raising him. The DNA may not be the same, but in every other way, he is the parent," Seyoum Berhe, an official of refugee services for the Catholic Archdiocese of Arlington, said in a Washington Post article. "We certainly do not support fraud, but there is a human aspect, too. If my brother were killed in Somalia and I saved his child, according to our culture, that child is mine."
The Catholic official raises an important point that certainly deserves discussion. But absent blood ties, how do our officials know that the people being claimed as family are truly family or are just another case of people trying to game our system? There are millions upon millions of refugees in the world, most of whom would love to claim some kind of family tie to get into the U.S. Our government officials have to have some way to determine true relationship.
Fraud No. 2 by U.S. Officials:
A large number of people who enter the U.S. under the refugee category do not meet internationally recognized criteria for re-settlement.
Most people have never thought about the fact that accepting refugees who don't have "special needs" is actually harmful to other refugees and destabilizes the gigantic international refugee community.
I learned this first hand when Barbara Jordan, the Chair of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, invited me to meet with the commission along with several international refugee officials.
I heard those officials note that the U.S. takes a lot of refugees from refugee camps who still have reasonable opportunities to return to their homeland. This has a negative effect on refugee efforts because the only hope for most refugees is for conditions in their home countries to improve to allow them to return home. Refugee experts note that when the U.S. takes refugees who are capable of returning home, it causes many more refugees to refuse to return home in hopes that they, too, will be allowed to enter the U.S. Only refugees who have no reasonable opportunity to return home in the foreseeable future, or whose lives depend on third-country resettlement, should be moved into a country like the U.S., experts suggest.
Resettlement of the wrong kind of refugees not only hurts the American environment (through forced population growth) and vulnerable U.S. workers (through labor market competition), it also causes a lot of extra suffering in the refugee camps where people are given false hopes that cause them to resist opportunities to go back home.
This kind of fraud by government officials and Members of Congress is perpetrated to achieve certain political goals of trading favor with other countries or with political constituencies in the U.S. But this political fraud harms the U.S. environment, vulnerable U.S. workers and the international refugee community.
ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA
Updated: Thu, Dec 18th 2008 @ 11:15am EST