Refugee Resettlement Programs Scam The Public

Today’s Refugee Resettlement program is a study in government-sponsored fraud. The nine primary resettlement contractors, called “Voluntary Agencies” or VOLAGs, work with 350 subcontractors called “affiliates,” and are paid per head to resettle refugees. This includes $2,025 for each refugee from the State Department’s Reception and Placement program, and a Voluntary Agencies Matching Grant of up to $2,200 for employment-eligible refugees from the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

To receive the matching grant the VOLAG must provide $1 for every $2 of grant money, i.e. $1,100 to receive the maximum $2,200. A minimum twenty percent of the VOLAG contribution ($440) must be cash. The rest can be donated furniture, clothes, food and other goods, or volunteer time at a specified hourly rate. By obtaining cash and in-kind donations from the public, the VOLAG pays little or nothing.

But it is worse than that. VOLAGs get volunteers to actually solicit cash and donated goods from the public for them. So not only does the VOLAG meet its matching grant requirement through donations from the public, it uses volunteers to do the fundraising!

Church World Service, one of the nine VOLAGs, recently conducted a “Match Team” volunteer recruitment drive. Participating volunteers are required to:

  • Raise at least $1,100 per individual through in-kind and cash donation. (CWS could thus get the $2,200 grant based wholly on the volunteer’s effort).
  • Raise a minimum cash amount equivalent to one month’s rent and utilities for the individual/family they are serving. (The $2,025 R&P grant is provided for this same purpose).

Volunteers are also asked to provide many of the services the VOLAG is supposed to perform, for example:

  • Accompany adults to the DMV to get their state ID
  • Go job hunting together
  • Practice writing checks for rent and bills
  • Go shopping for work uniform and shoes together
  • Transport parents to a school parent-teacher meeting
  • Practice speaking English together
  • Practice filling out applications
  • Search for childcare together
  • Provide a tour of the community and show them free family activities (local parks and libraries)

Volunteers pay all their own expenses — like gas and food — with no reimbursement. The resettlement program is billed as a “public-private partnership” but the VOLAGs appear to have rigged it so that volunteers do the work while they laugh all the way to the bank.

A VOLAG resettling a family of four receives $8,100 ($2,025 x 4) plus however many $2,200 matching grants it can justify, to provide a few months’ rent, cash and other items. But with “Match Teams” raising cash and in-kind donations to cover these expenses, how much do the VOLAGs actually have to lay out?

Refugee Self-Sufficiency Fraud

The $2,200 Matching Grant supposedly helps refugees become “economically self-sufficient” within 120-180 days. Accomplishing this allows VOLAGs to abandon refugees quickly and move onto the next batch. ORR director Robert Carey recently bragged that about 82 percent of refugees in the matching grant program achieved economic self-sufficiency within 180 days.

This sounds pretty impressive. However, ORR uses a special definition of “economic self-sufficiency.” All refugees need is a job that disqualifies them from receiving cash assistance grants. (45 C.F.R. 400.2)  They remain eligible for all other forms of welfare.

But even this is a fraud. ORR defines “cash assistance” to include only Refugee Cash Assistance and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, the primary federal cash welfare program). It  excludes all other forms of cash welfare, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and state-sponsored General Assistance.

In fact, refugees remain on the dole for years and use welfare at rates from 3 to 14 times the U.S. average. As shown in the table below, after five years, 60.2 percent of refugees are still on food stamps, Forty-four percent receive Medicaid and 47 percent receive either TANF or SSI. Compare these with U.S. rates. Note also that for the first two years cash assistance utilization exceeds 100 percent. Some refugees must be receiving more than one form of cash assistance.

TANF has a federal time limit of 5 years. The table shows SSI use increases as TANF declines. SSI is supposed to be limited to the elderly and disabled, yet there are concerns that it has become merely a long-term replacement for TANF.

             Refugees on the Dole1
            (Number of Years)
<1 1 2 3 4 5 U.S.
2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 Rates2,3
TANF 40.4% 34.2% 13.7% 10.4% 11.0% 17.5% 1.2%
SSI 14.0% 19.5% 21.0% 25.1% 22.9% 29.6% 2.6%
Refugee Cash Assistance 43.5% 29.3% 2.8% 1.5% 1.0% 5.1% NA
General Assistance 23.7% 22.6% 11.2% 8.5% 11.1% 5.7% <1%
Medicaid/RMA 78.3% 75.2% 57.9% 49.1% 54.0% 44.2% 15.3%
Food Stamps 98.3% 95.0% 78.2% 64.1% 63.8% 60.2% 14.3%
Public Housing 13.3% 17.6% 24.2% 25.8% 21.6% 1.2% 4.2%
1Source: 2014 Office of Refugee Resettlement Report to Congress
2Sources: HHS, SSA, U.S. Census, USDA
3U.S. Rates: TANF, 2014; SSI & Food Stamps, 2015; Medicaid & Public Housing, 2012

Despite the VOLAGs’ fraudulent , self-serving claims of “self-sufficiency,” refugees cost American taxpayers vastly more than any economic benefit they provide — about $130 million/year for the latest batch of Syrians. Furthermore, most refugees want to return home, not resettle elsewhere, and 12 can be helped in refugee camps for the cost of resettling one.

Using existing  authority, the next president could immediately reset the current 110,000 refugee resettlement targets to zero so the whole program can be examined and overhauled. The entire VOLAG system should be abolished so that refugee resettlement can return to the program it once was, driven by compassion, not profit, and cognizant of the needs of both refugees and U.S. citizens alike.

James Simpson is an author, economist, businessman and investigative journalist. His latest book is The Red Green Axis: Refugees, Immigration and the Agenda to Erase America. Follow Jim on Twitter & Facebook.