By Joe Guzzardi
October 25th, 2017
Earlier this week, the Trump administration’s restrictions on refugee admissions took another turn. A 120-day suspension ended, and the White House released a new presidential executive order to replace it that allows resettlement to resume.
The new order authorizes closer scrutiny of nationals from 11 as yet unnamed countries. During a 90-day trial period, an increased number of immigration officials will review refugees’ applications on a case-by-case basis for fraud and other irregularities.
U.S. State Department officials said that federal agencies had “conducted a review to further intensify the screening process of individuals seeking admission as refugees to uphold the safety of the American people,” a prudent approach when evaluating permanent residency applications from individuals who may come from anti-American nations sympathetic to terrorism.
Enhanced vetting measures being implemented include increased screening of biographical data, social media and information that’s shared between federal agencies. Tashfeen Malik, the San Bernardino terrorist, who with her husband killed 14 Americans in 2015, had pledged allegiance to ISIS on her Facebook account. Had the new vetting guidelines been in place at the time, the San Bernardino tragedy might have been averted.
Refugee advocates are disappointed to learn that the new executive order will impose tighter admission standards. But whether the U.S. admits 45,000 or 110,000 refugees annually, it cannot make a dent in the millions from around the globe who want to migrate to America. A 2016 New York Times story estimated that of the 20 million worldwide refugees, less than one percent will be officially resettled, and the U.S. will accept half of the one percent.
The best, most cost-effective and most humanitarian way to address refugee crises is for the U.S. to give monetary and medical aid to refugees in camps near their home countries. Close to home means that when the disaster that drove them away is resolved, returning home is easier.
The Center for Immigration Studies broke down the taxpayer costs associated with U.S. resettlement and compared that to how funds would be more effectively used if invested in temporary camps abroad. On average, each Middle Eastern refugee resettled in the U.S. costs an estimated $64,370 in the first five years, or $257,481 per household. But for $64,370, to resettle one Middle Eastern refugee in the U.S. for five years, about 12 refugees could be helped in the Middle East for the same five years. The United Nations’ preferred long-term solution is for refugees to voluntarily repatriate to their home countries.
In general, only the more elite among the refugees can afford to migrate. The truly poor can’t even get to a border camp. When the crisis back home ends, the former are needed to help rebuild, but once comfortably settled in the U.S. as permanent residents they have little desire to leave.
Refugee resettlement is a red-hot political potato. But as the resettlement policy is currently implemented, the program doesn’t best serve the refugees’ interests. Most refugees would be happier living at home; the U.S. should help them return.