The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) hosted a panel discussion this week focusing on the Refugee Resettlement Program and its impact on states and localities. Participants said that even if states withdraw from the program, the federal government pays private organizations to settle refugees in those states, generating the same costs for state taxpayers. The panel concluded refugee resettlement laws require thorough reform, especially since only a miniscule percentage of the refugees the United Nations wants to resettle face threats requiring their immediate removal.

CIS Fellow Don Barnett discussed his recent report, which provides a history of the states' interactions with the refugee program and recommendations for better defining the state role. He said there is no meaningful consultation between the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and states targeted for resettlement. And states that withdraw from the program find the program continues in the state with the potential to operate on a larger scale than before withdrawal and with no state input.

Moreover, Barnett said, Congress has shirked its responsibility to fully fund the refugee resettlement program, and shifted much of its fiscal burden to states. The 1980 Refugee Act, for example, provided three years of reimbursement for the state portion of welfare programs used by refugees in the state. This support was ended entirely.

Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center discussed the lawsuit his organization filed on behalf of the state of Tennessee challenging the constitutionality of the resettlement program. The suit claims the state’s sovereignty is violated by being forced to spend taxpayer dollars on a program in which it does not participate. Thompson also discussed a judge’s decision just the day before that dismissed the case.

Mark Krikorian, CIS’ Executive Director, advocated resettling only those needing immediate evacuation from their country. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees revealed that just 281 of the 118,000 refugees ( 0.40 percent) sent to nations around the world for resettlement in 2015 actually faced threats requiring their immediate removal. “The point of refugee resettlement should be a last resort for people who literally cannot stay where they are for a second longer,” Krikorian said. “Those are the people who should be resettled in the U.S.” A CIS report found that the U.S. took in 62 percent of refugees dispatched by the United Nations.

Krikorian said that instead of shipping refugees to the U.S., Europe, and Australia, they should be placed in safe havens closer to their home countries. “The whole point of refugee resettlement should not be virtue signaling on the part of the United States, which unfortunately too much of it is, but rather last resort protection for people who have no other options.”

See more at CIS.

Updated: Wed, Apr 4th 2018 @ 6:25pm EDT