Sen. Ted Cruz made time in the midst of an intense presidential campaign to issue a letter taking two high ranking government officials to task over the burdensome and high-cost refugee resettlement program.
“The United States resettles more refugees each year than any other nation. Since 2011, more than 330,000 refugees have arrived in the United States,” begins the March 24 Cruz letter addressed to Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard and Office of Refugee Resettlement Director Robert Carey.
“A recent study of Middle Eastern refugees, for instance, found that, on average, each refugee cost taxpayers an estimated $64,370—or $257,481 per household—in the first five years.” The Cruz letter summarizes the makeup of these costs while pointing out the “welfare costs. It is estimated that 91% of Middle Eastern refugees receive food stamps, and 68% receive cash assistance.”
The letter moves on, speaking of those communities in which refugees are most frequently resettled and the disproportionate costs to those communities. A lawsuit over resettlement of Syrian refugees in Texas without any notice is referenced with the statement, “This does not appear to be an isolated incident.” State officials have identified several instances in which the federal government did not provide advance notice that refugees would be funneled to their region.
A 2012 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on refugee resettlement discussed in the letter lists “several challenges that resettlement communities face:”
- lack of mental health resources for refugees who have experienced trauma;
- strain on service provider budgets due to the costs of interpreter services;
- declining school district performance because of the limited English proficiency of refugee students;
- pressure on local social services due to refugees who are unemployed and live in poverty.
Cruz expresses concern over federal government abuse of “the generosity and good will of resettlement communities” and goes on to make nine requests of the two officials. Those requests bring into question whether government officials have addressed concerns identified in the 2012 GAO report. The nine requests for specific information are to be returned to Congress in order to assist in “understanding the nature and scope of the problem.”
The letter gives a response deadline of Monday, April 11, 2016.
Potentially overwhelmed resettlement communities can request a moratorium on or reduction in refugees funneled to their respective regions, but the letter notes that it is unclear if they are being heard or responded to. The letter asks for statistics and specific numbers of communities that have requested a moratorium or reduction since the 2012 GAO report.
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