A United Nations report is providing fuel for renewed debate over U.S. policies regarding refugees.
According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, less than 300 of roughly 118,000 refugees accepted by the world’s nations throughout 2015 were facing an immediate threat that left removal from their home country as their only option.
As interpreted by some conservative analysts, that statistic is seen as evidence that as much as 99.6 percent of the world’s refugee population could have benefited from less disruptive assistance.
Such unnecessary disruption impacts both the refugees uprooted from their community and culture and the countries — disproportionately the U.S. — tasked with taking them in, argue critics like the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative think tank.
According to one CIS study, 62 percent of the refugees authorized for relocation by the U.N. ended up in America.
The group hosted a recent panel discussion on the domestic Refugee Resettlement Program, particularly focusing on whether state and local governments have too little control over the refugees being introduced into their jurisdiction by federal authorities.
CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian said the biggest problem with the program is that too many people are being labeled refugees.
“The point of refugee resettlement should be a last resort for people who literally cannot stay where they are for a second longer,” he said. “Those are the people who should be resettled in the U.S.”
Others affiliated with the group point to unmet promises by the federal government to foot much of the cost for refugee resettlement.
Don Barnett explained that the Refugee Act passed nearly four decades ago provided for a 3-year reimbursement to states for welfare costs incurred by refugees. That federal funding is no longer available and the cost is now incurred largely at the state level.
He further argued that states have no real recourse against federal impositions.
“New Jersey, Maine, Kansas, and Texas formally withdrew from the program,” he said. “Actually, however, this is a program that states can never leave. If history is any guide, those states that left the program — quote, ‘left the program’ — are getting more refugees now than they would have had they stayed in.”
In a system critics say is ineffective and unfair to local governments, Krikorian and others argue that it makes sense to reconsider how refugees are relocated — not just in the U.S. but across Europe and beyond.
Barnett emphasized his belief that the executive branch wields far too much power in determining how many refugees are admitted annually.
“By law, the president can zero out the quota if he wants, and a new president could increase it to 200,000 or higher,” he said. “Really, there is no limit. Before that happens, it may be wise to look at reforming the program.”
The CIS argues for safe havens in the same geographic region as a refugee’s homeland instead of treating the U.S. and other nations as a first choice for resettlement.
Krikorian claimed that Americans supporting the existing refugee program are often interested more in the appearance of moral superiority than the well-being of refugees.
“The whole point of refugee resettlement should not be virtue signaling on the part of the United States, which unfortunately too much of it is, but rather last resort protection for people who have no other options,” he said.
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