Refugees and Benefits

Terry Gorman, of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement (RIILE), sent out a Facebook post linking to a Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) analysis of the cost of accepting Middle Eastern refugees:

As Americans continue to debate what to do about the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, this analysis attempts to estimate the costs of resettling refugees from that region in the United States. Although we do not consider all costs, our best estimate is that in their first five years in the United States each refugee from the Middle East costs taxpayers $64,370 — 12 times what the UN estimates it costs to care for one refugee in neighboring Middle Eastern countries. The cost of resettlement includes heavy welfare use by Middle Eastern refugees; 91 percent receive food stamps and 68 percent receive cash assistance. Costs also include processing refugees, assistance given to new refugees, and aid to refugee-receiving communities. Given the high costs of resettling refugees in the United States, providing for them in neighboring countries in the Middle East may be a more cost-effective way to help them.

Gorman says Rhode Island takes in about 500 refugees a year, which equates to more than $32 million over five years, or $6.4 million accumulating every year.

The CIS study does take into account usage rates, which brings down the average cost per program (because not all refugees utilize every program).  The table included with the report provides a total possible average annual payment amount for 10 common programs of $55,374 per year.  That’s almost Rhode Island’s median household income.

Consider that number in the context of the fact that Rhode Island has actively been changing its demographic mix to include higher proportions of people who use these programs as well as the investments that Rhode Island is making in ways to ensure that everybody gets as much government assistance as possible.

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