The Right Way to Help Refugees
“. . . persecuted Christian refugees from Burma wanted more. . . They wanted to live the “American dream.”
By Jim Jacobson
SAULT STE. MARIE, MICHIGAN — Almost 10 years ago, tens of thousands of persecuted Christian refugees from Burma were resettled to the United States. Many of the refugees knew Christian Freedom International because of the years CFI assisted them in Burma. As a result, when refugees started to arrive in the U.S., many contacted CFI asking for help once again.
However, as refugees, they came to the U.S. through the government’s refugee resettlement program. They entered a system whereby the federal government spends billions of tax-payer dollars to bring refugees to the U.S. Through a tangled web of international and federal bureaucracies, contracting with nine agencies, the federal government enrolls new refugees into a complete, “cradle to grave” welfare system.
An Uncaring, Brutal System
In reality, it is a brutal system. Once a refugee enters America, federally contracted agencies have perverse incentives to place, and keep, new arrivals on the public dole.
While the actual costs to the American taxpayer of resettling a refugee are not publicly disclosed, we do know it is enormously expensive both in the short term and long term. According to report by the Center for Immigration Studies (“The High Cost of Resettling Middle Eastern Refugees,” November 2015), “Although we do not consider all costs, our best estimate is that in their first five years in the United States each refugee from the Middle East costs taxpayers $64,370 — 12 times what the UN estimates it costs to care for one refugee in neighboring Middle Eastern countries. The cost of resettlement includes heavy welfare use by Middle Eastern refugees; 91 percent receive food stamps and 68 percent receive cash assistance. Costs also include processing refugees, assistance given to new refugees, and aid to refugee-receiving communities. Given the high costs of resettling refugees in the United States, providing for them in neighboring countries in the Middle East may be a more cost-effective way to help them.”
Like vultures waiting for the next dead corpse, federally funded agencies prey upon an ever flowing, large influx of refugees.
• Refugees are treated as commodities, not people, by federally-funded resettlement contract agencies.
• The more refugees a resettlement agency can acquire, the more funds the agency receives; profiting from the federal government at the refugees expense.
• Like cattle, refugees have a “per head” price assigned to them by the system.
Resettlement agencies place refugees in large public housing facilities in the slums of major cities. Once a refugee is set up on welfare, very little additional contact is made between the refugee and the resettlement agency. Case workers are overloaded, and lack practical resources to offer more than the most superficial responses to a refugee who encounters difficulties in a strange environment. The refugee is left alone, isolated, on public assistance with little hope of ever assimilating or becoming self-sufficient.
Breaking the Mold
But persecuted Christian refugees from Burma wanted more. They were not content to just simply survive on welfare in the inner-city slums. They wanted to live, and work, the “American dream.”
Shortly after arriving in the U.S. many started contacting CFI asking for help. They wanted to break out of the slums. They wanted jobs. They wanted to buy a car, learn English, and become self-sufficient.
Responding to the need, CFI purchased a motor lodge, in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and converted it into a short term living center for new refugees. We called it the “Freedom Inn.” The goal was to get refugees off public assistance as soon as possible, and put them on a path to self-sufficiency, and assimilation.
• Freedom Inn became a place where refugees would learn English, find a job, and learn how to become fully independent, self-sufficient, tax-paying American citizens.
• Volunteers from the community help new refugees transition off welfare to complete independence, citizenship, and assimilation.
• Freedom Inn is privately funded through the donations of caring Christians. Volunteers from the community tutor new refugees and assist them in finding jobs, learning to drive, and buying cars and housing.
• Freedom Inn serves as a model in how refugee resettlement to the U.S. can and should be done. Freedom Inn continues to assist new Christian refugees and is a huge success that is producing incredible results.
Refugees who have lived at Freedom Inn have gone on to live the American dream. They have purchased their own homes and are hardworking, productive, American citizens who love their new country.
A Model for the Nation
Today Freedom Inn continues to assist refugees. Freedom Inn is a model that can and should be replicated across the country. It serves the needs of new refugees and the nation without any subsidy or funding from the government.
That is why CFI is calling for the privatization of the refugee resettlement program. The bottom line is it works.
The Freedom Inn concept is not new. It is a return to how our nation used to successfully resettle refugees. Years ago, refugee resettlement to the U.S. was done by the private sector, mainly through churches, caring individuals, and faith based organizations. Unfortunately, the federal government currently has a monopoly on refugee resettlement, and it has been proven to fail both the national interests and the refugee. This must change and soon.
Now is the time to get back to what works.
For more information and to sign our petition, see “A Call to Privatize Refugee Resettlement.”