A number of Republican governors are doing damage control after they approved more refugee resettlement in their states, including Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.
For Fiscal Year 2020, President Donald Trump will continue cutting refugee admissions by reducing former President Barack Obama’s refugee inflow by at least 80 percent. This reduction would mean a maximum of 18,000 refugees can be resettled in the U.S. between October 1, 2019, and September 30, 2020. This is merely a numerical limit and not a goal federal officials are supposed to reach.
Coupled with the refugee reduction, Trump signed an executive order that gives localities, counties, and states veto power over whether they want to resettle refugees in their communities.
To date, these Republican governors in 18 states have asked the Trump administration to continue resettling refugees in their states:
- Mike DeWine of Ohio
- Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas
- Kim Reynolds of Iowa
- Charlie Baker of Massachusetts
- Gary Herbert of Utah
- Doug Burgum of North Dakota
- Chris Sununu of New Hampshire
- Doug Ducey of Arizona
- Eric Holcomb of Indiana
- Bill Lee of Tennessee
- Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma
- Pete Ricketts of Nebraska
- Kristi Noem of South Dakota
- Jim Justice of West Virginia
- Mike Parson of Missouri
- Brad Little of Idaho
- Larry Hogan of Maryland
- Mike Dunleavy of Alaska
Now, after backlash from state legislators and counties, a handful of these Republican governors have released statements in an effort to defend their decision to bring more refugees to their states.
Gov. Hutchinson of Arkansas, for instance, released a series of answers to commonly asked questions to state legislators which was obtained by Breitbart News. In the memo, Hutchinson admits that refugees resettled in Arkansas will eventually be able to apply for public benefits, welfare, and social services.
What types of state social services are available to refugees? Refugees resettled in Arkansas are eligible to receive federal assistance and private donations for up to 90 days upon arrival in the state. These individuals are most often employed within that period. After that period, they can apply for the same public assistance available to any other lawfully present individual and are subject to the same qualifications and requirements, including work requirements. [Emphasis added]
Hutchinson asserts that Arkansas will likely resettle only 27 refugees for the year, but that decision is determined by the State Department and refugee contractors — not Arkansas legislators.
Similarly, Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee scolded residents and state officials who are opposed to his decision to continue refugee resettlement in the state, claiming that they have conflated refugees with illegal aliens. Activists opposing refugee resettlement who have spoken to Breitbart News have never claimed to date that refugees are illegal aliens.
Lee said in remark:
When people talk about refugees, they’re not talking about illegal immigrants. Those are very different things. We need to have a very clear understanding of that. When you start talking about this topic, you need to be informed about the difference between illegal immigration and legal refugee settlement.
Lee also claimed that Tennessee officials will have a say “in the process” of resettling refugees, but no federal statute supports state involvement in such a way. Rather, refugee contractors — funded by the federal government — are allowed to resettle as many refugees in regions that allow for resettlement.
Lee said, despite no evidence that Tennessee officials will be allowed to have any involvement with a particular refugee’s assimilation once resettled in the state:
If we don’t engage in the process, then we have no control over it whatsoever … and we will not know who they are, we will not have any way to engage in their assimilation, and we will have no control over this process.
In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine had to reassure constituents with a statement after writing in a letter that he would continue to admit refugees to the state.
DeWine said, “the State of Ohio has a long and successful history of welcoming and assimilating refugees from all corners of the globe,” though the state of Ohio is not involved in any assimilation processes for resettled refugees.
Refugee contractors have a vested interest in making sure as many refugees are resettled across the U.S. as possible, because their annual federally-funded budgets are contingent on the number of refugees they resettle. Those refugee contractors include:
Church World Service (CWS), Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC), Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), International Rescue Committee (IRC), U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS), U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and World Relief Corporation (WR).
Refugee resettlement costs American taxpayers nearly $9 billion every five years, according to the latest research. Over the course of five years, an estimated 16 percent of all refugees admitted will need housing assistance paid for by taxpayers.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.