Center for Immigration Studies Syrian Refugees


A new study by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) shows that the U.S. can help twelve Syrians in the Middle East for the same cost as relocating one Syrian refugee in the United States.

According to the study. one Syrian refugee will cost American taxpayers $64,370 in their first five years. The CIS study includes the cost of processing refuges, assistance given to new refugees, welfare costs, and the aid to refugee-receiving communities. This cost is twelve times higher than what the UN estimates it would cost to relocate and care for one Syrian refugee in a neighboring Middle Eastern country.

The study findings include:

  • 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.
  • 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 five-year costs of resettlement in the United States include $9,230 spent by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within HHS and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) within the State Department in the first year, as well as $55,139 in expenditures on welfare and education.
  • 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.
  • It is worth adding that ORR often reports that most refugees are self-sufficient within five years. However, ORR defines "self-sufficiency" as not receiving cash welfare. A household is still considered "self-sufficient" even if it is using any number of non-cash programs such as food stamps, public housing, or Medicaid.
  • Refugees are admitted for humanitarian reasons, not because they are supposed to be self-sufficient, so the drain on public coffers that Middle Eastern refugees create is expected. However, given limited resources, the high cost of resettlement in the United States means careful consideration should be given to alternatives to resettlement if the goal is the help as many people possible.

The study suggests that providing aid to relocate Syrian refugees into neighboring Middle Eastern countries is a more cost-effective solution and would benefit more Syrian refugees than bringing them to the US.

Read the full study at


Updated: Thu, Nov 19th 2015 @ 3:50pm EST