Bill Lee's refugee decision could perpetuate disingenuous international cycle

By Don Barnett on January 13, 2020

The Tennessean, January 9, 2020

In recent years about one out of five legal immigrants have arrived as a client of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, or ORR.

In 2016 these clients numbered 212,410. All were eligible for all forms of welfare on the same basis as U.S. citizens because of their immigration status: Refugees, Trafficking Victims, Cuban/Haitian Entrants, Special Immigrant Visa holders or Asylees with status granted by an immigration judge. In addition, 59,170 unaccompanied alien children went into special ORR programs. By 2019 the number of these children entering the country exceeded 69,000 with annual cost for care over $1.25 billion.

Our well-intentioned humanitarian immigration policies exert an even greater influence on the flow of illegal immigrants into the country.

A refugee pipeline

A network of international non-government organizations, brokers, lawyers and other middlemen exists to keep the engine going in a machine that delivers people into the pipeline of U.S. humanitarian immigration programs such as the resettlement of refugees from United Nations camps and other places to the U.S.

Tennessee is doing its part to keep the machine going.

The Trump administration’s latest attempt to reform refugee and asylum policy is a Sept. 26 executive order allowing states and localities to opt out of refugee resettlement in their environs.

In implementing a procedure to identify those jurisdictions that want refugees, the State Department allowed the federally funded resettlement contractors to drum up business for themselves. They promptly launched a nationwide mass marketing campaign aimed at getting citizens to encourage their governors and local officials to write a "yes to refugees" letter to the State Department.

The left-leaning Evangelical Immigration Table, which has been linked to the National Immigration Forum, coordinated a petition drive in 15 states, including Tennessee. The letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee had 659 evangelicals sign it urging the governor to consent to refugee resettlement.

No one from his home church in Franklin, Grace Chapel, has been identified as having signed the plea. So far, the response has been good for the refugee industry. If the pro-refugee media campaign is successful, the executive order may end up with effects diametrically the opposite of those intended. Imagine the faux social media opprobrium that will pour down on the first governor who publicly rejects refugees.

Of course, the publicity campaign makes no mention of costs to federal, state and local taxpayers for such services as Medicaid, English language learning and welfare. Instead it spins these costs as "federal money" that follows the refugees and stimulates the economy.

Lee may damage legal case

Lee has consented to continued resettlement for one year even though Tennessee has an active lawsuit to stop refugee resettlement in the state, alleging that current practice runs roughshod over state sovereignty and forces states to pay for costs that were originally to be covered by the federal government.

Though Lee says he wants the lawsuit to go forward, his actions may well invalidate it.

We can hope the unexpectedly strong negative response from the public and the legislature will lead to a change of course as soon as possible. The U.S. needs to maintain its leadership role in humanitarian initiatives overseas, but our humanitarian immigration policies are not working as advertised.

Humanitarian admission to the U.S. must mostly be the work of true, self-regulating, U.S.-based, sacrificial charity, not the work of international contractors funded with government dollars. Were that the case from the beginning, we wouldn’t need this latest executive order or the lawsuit.

Topics: Refugees