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More Than 90 Percent of Middle Eastern Refugees on Food Stamps

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More than 90 percent of recent refugees from Middle Eastern nations are on food stamps and nearly 70 percent receive cash assistance, according to government data.

According to Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) data highlighted by the immigration subcommittee staff of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) — chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest — in FY 2013, 91.4 percent of Middle Eastern refugees (accepted to the U.S. between 2008-2013) received food stamps, 73.1 percent were on Medicaid or Refugee Medical Assistance and 68.3 percent were on cash welfare.

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Middle Eastern refugees used a number of other assistance programs at slightly lower rates. For example, 36.7 percent received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), 32.1 percent received Supplemental Security Income (SSI), 19.7 percent lived in public housing, 17.3 percent were on General Assistance (GA), and 10.9 percent received Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA).

The high welfare rates among Middle Eastern refugees comes as the Obama administration considers increasing the number of refugees — who are immediately eligible for public benefits — to the U.S., particularly Syrian refugees.

ORR defines refugees and asylees from the “Middle East” as being from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen.

Sessions’ staff notes that that from FY 2008 to FY 2013 the U.S. admitted 115,617 refugees from the Middle East and granted another 10,026 asylum. Additionally the U.S. granted green cards to 308,805 immigrants from those Middle Eastern countries identified by ORR as refugee nations, making them Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) eligible to apply for citizenship in five years and petition to have family members come to the U.S.

As of 2013, Sessions’ staff notes, the top ten countries for refugee admission to the U.S. were  Iraq, Burma, Bhutan, Somalia, Cuba, Iran, Congo, Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia.

“More broadly, concerning all immigration, the Migration Policy Institute notes that the U.S. has taken in ‘about 20 percent of the world’s international migrants, even as it represents less than 5 percent of the global population,’ and that 1 in 4 U.S. residents is now either an immigrant or born to immigrant parents,” Sessions staff highlights, noting that the Census is projecting that another 14 million immigrants will come to the U.S. by 2025.


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