The Impact of Refugees

Americans are a people of immense charity, eclipsing all other nations in the speed and degree of our willingness to help others. Like a lifeboat in a turbulent sea, we offer salvation to those in desperate need. But this largess is finite as we are but 5% of the world’s population. It is not unreasonable to imagine that there is another 5% of the world, one in twenty that would eagerly seek refuge among us. Such an influx would overwhelm our abilities, overloading our lifeboat to the point of disaster. Countries, like lifeboats, must have capacity limits so that those that can be saved are saved.

The primary purpose of Government is to secure our rights in a way that we the people believe most likely to effect our safety and happiness. The Constitution does not grant the government the authority to forego the safety of the people for some vague and nebulous policy as “American values”. If we are to base a foreign policy on “American values” then the term “American values” must be defined or one can expect chaos.

Clear definitions are important. Foreign fighters intent on violence are NOT refugees. They are invaders posing as refugees.

Refugees are not immigrants. Immigrants have made the free, un-coerced decision to seek a better life in a new country. They are willing to renounce their affiliation with their former home and pledge allegiance to the country of their aspirations. There is an expectation that the immigrant will assimilate into the new country, adopting the language and customs as their own.

In contrast, the refugee has been driven from their home due to a “well-founded fear of persecution,” and is seeking temporary refuge. Note that “persecution” is an essential element. If a person is simply seeking a more prosperous or peaceful existence then conventional immigration is the appropriate path. For refugees there is no expectation, nor should there be, that the guest refugee should assimilate. Indeed the guest refugee surely longs to return to their ancestral home; to be reunited with the places, people and culture they left behind.

Imagine that you were driven from your community by conflict or disaster. Would you not pray for the conflict to abate so that you may return and resume your normal life? What if you were driven not just across the border but across the world to a land of strange language, customs, foods and traditions? Would you not seek the company of your peers to take solace and comfort in the exercise of your culture and faith? Wouldn’t any accommodation to these ends by your hosts be seen as a blessing and a welcome kindness? It is difficult for us to empathize with these poor souls as we have enjoyed generations of stability and security in our own country.

The Federal government is the sole authority in matters of immigration and refugees crossing our nation’s borders. However, with authority comes responsibility. It is the responsibility of the Federal government to provide the necessary support for the guest refugees including housing, food, transportation, education and other services. The guest refugees must be cared for and protected by the Federal government.

Unfortunately the Federal government is not fulfilling its obligations. Instead it pays an intermediary to relocate the guest refugees in target communities and then abandons them. These guest refugees so located place an immediate burden and impact the target community. The burden is, at least in part, fiscal and as such is effectively a tax on that community. Since this fiscal burden is to not in proportion to the national census, it runs contrary to the spirit of Section 9 of the US Constitution.

The Federal government has established that relocating the refugees has costs involved and provides funding in the form of grants to nine primary Voluntary Agencies (VOLAG). Total grant funding exceeds 1 billion dollars annually to resettle 70-80,000 refugees (~$12,500 per). In turn, VOLAGS have established that the refugees place a financial burden on the target community and have, in some cases, provided limited funding directly to municipalities and / or school districts, but this funding is a fraction of the true and ongoing costs.

Given these facts it is reasonable and good policy for the counties or municipalities to demand compensation from the VOLAGs to offset the considerable costs associated with hosting the refugees. It is unfair to ask only a few Americans to bear the burden. All Americans should bear a fair and equal share of supporting the refugees.

When considering the magnitude of the costs it must be acknowledged that the guest refugees may have unique requirements that are not currently being served in the community. For example, if the guest refugee’s native language is not spoken in the target communities schools and government offices then interpreters must be found and hired to address the needs of even one foreign speaker. Unique cultural requirements of the guest refugees may require training of those in public service. Unique community outreach, legal services, transportation, social services, etc. may also be needed.

Clearly the impact of the guest refugees is not the same as the average resident but rather more comparable to those currently most intensively served by the public services of the community. Therefore the objective bust be to ensure that the target community has the resources to appropriately host the guest refugee.

While recently the Federal government has abdicated (or perhaps never had) immigration authority at the municipality level (vis-a-vis “sanctuary cities”) it still has responsibility in the areas where it does act.

Guest refugees are the Federal government’s responsibility. It is the responsibility of the target community to secure adequate funding from the federal government or its subcontractors to address the guest refugees’ needs. Failure to do so would cause the target community to suffer a disproportionate burden of a federal program. Failure to act is acceptance of this disproportionate burden. It is the duty of elected officials to ensure the just and fair treatment of all the residents within their jurisdiction, citizen and refugee alike.