What does the refugee resettlement program cost US taxpayers?

A minimum of $1 billion but closer to $10 billion annually?

That is a question we get all the time!  But, honestly no one knows for sure because although the Office of Refugee Resettlement does a survey of a small number of refugees every year (for its always-late annual report to Congress) to see what services refugees access, they have really no idea.

Yesterday a reader (thanks Linda) sent me the Report to Congress for FY2015 that accompanies the Presidential Determination for how many refugees we are bringing in the new fiscal year.  FY2015 began on October 1st.  I hadn’t seen this year’s report, but it is a treasure trove of information which we will be bringing to your attention as time goes on.

This report is not to be confused with Annual Reports to Congress which look back at previous years.

Here is the FY2015 Report to CongressNote that the dollar figures we have here do not include:  costs associated with the Unaccompanied Alien Children’s Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income programs, the Victims of Domestic Trafficking, food stamps, public housing, WIC, education for the children, costs associated with the criminal justice system, interpreters, etc.

Remember Eskinder Negash told us here that the Office of Refugee Resettlement took care of 143,000 ‘refugees’ in FY 2013 (but some were UACs and victims of trafficking).

So, without those costs added in we are paying over $1 billion a year in tax dollars to resettle just over 100,000 refugees and asylees in one year.  Some experts say the cost for the “services” listed above for years (because we don’t just give welfare for the first year in America) would run the tab up to the $5-$10 billion mark each year.

Here, at nearly the last page of the FY2015 report, is the expected cost of resettling roughly just over 100,000 refugees and asylees this year—just to get them in and initially settled.  (Often readers are confused about which agencies are directly involved in the resettlement process.  You can see here it is Homeland Security, US State Department and the US Dept. of Health and Human Services (ORR).)

Table VII

Estimated Available Funding for Refugee Processing, Movement, and Resettlement
FY 2014 and FY 2015 ($ Millions)

 

Agency

Estimated
FY 2014
(by Department)

Estimated
FY 2015
(by Department)

Department of Homeland Security
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
Refugee Processing 1

$32.3

$32.9

Department of State
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Refugee Admissions 2, 3

$494.4

$ 418.0

Department of Health and Human Services
Administration for Children and Families,
Office of Refugee Resettlement
Refugee Resettlement 4

$616.3

$608.1

TOTAL $1,143.0 $1,059.0

The estimated FY 2015 figures above reflect the President’s FY 2015 Budget request and do not include carryover funds from FY 2014.

1 FY 2015: Includes cost factors to reflect Headquarters facilities rent related to the refugee resettlement program, projected staffing enhancements, and following-to-join refugee processing, in addition to certain ICASS costs.

2 FY 2014: Includes FY 2014 MRA appropriation of $351 million, $68.8 million in PRM carryover from FY 2013, $68.6 million projected IOM loan collections/carryover, and an estimate of $6 million in prior year MRA recoveries. A portion of these funds will be carried forward into FY 2015.

3 FY 2015: Includes FY 2015 MRA budget request of $360 million, $52 million in projected IOM loan collections/carryover, and an estimate of $6 million in prior year MRA recoveries. Funds carried forward from FY 2014 will also be available in FY 2015. [IOM loans are travel loans to refugees which when repaid partially return to resettlement contractors and not to the federal treasury—ed]

4 FY 2014 and FY 2015: HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) refugee benefits and services are also provided to asylees, Cuban and Haitian entrants, certain Amerasians from Vietnam, victims of a severe form of trafficking who have received certification or eligibility letters from ORR, and certain family members who are accompanying or following to join victims of severe forms of trafficking, and some victims of torture, as well as Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrants and their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21. None of these additional groups is included in the refugee admissions ceiling except Amerasians. This category does not include costs associated with the Unaccompanied Alien Children’s Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income programs, or the Victims of Domestic Trafficking. The estimated FY 2015 figures above reflect the President’s FY 2015 Budget request and do not include carryover funds from FY 2014, as HHS does not anticipate any carryover funding from FY 2014.

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