Babin: Push the pause button on refugee resettlement

Published 8:31 am Thursday, August 20, 2015

By Brian Babin

I recently introduced H.R. 3314, the Resettlement Accountability National Security Act, which would press the pause button on a program that grants permanent legal residency to nearly 70,000 new immigrants a year under a program coordinated through the United Nations (U.N.), known as the Refugee Resettlement Program.

H.R. 3314 would temporarily suspends the program until the Government Accountability Office (GAO) completes a thorough examination of its costs on local governments, states and American taxpayers.

The Refugee Resettlement Program has been running on autopilot for far too long with little regard to economic, social and national security implications. We need to step back and examine all aspects of this program. Such as, why is the U.N., whose policies often run counter to the best interests of the U.S., even in the equation?

Nearly half-a-million refugees have entered the U.S. under the Refugee Resettlement Program while President Obama has been in office – with the state of Texas and its taxpayers being asked to take in more than any other state during that time.

With America’s growing budgetary and national security challenges, it is extremely troubling that this program would continue at an unchecked pace without a clear picture of its costs to federal, state and local taxpayers – as well as the national security risks it poses.

According to the Congressional Research Service, those granted legal permanent residency are allowed the following taxpayer funded services: seven years of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), seven years of Medicaid coverage, five years of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families subsidies, and no limit on Food Stamp eligibility. This adds billions of dollars in federal spending to our national debt, which is particularly troubling at a time when these services are expanding at an unsustainable pace.

When I asked officials what the costs of these programs were, I was told that they have no idea. I believe most Americans would agree that it is plain common sense to seek a full accounting of the Refugee Resettlement Program – and that is exactly what H.R. 3314 does.

It also gives us an opportunity to fully investigate the national security risks associated with resettlement. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is increasingly worried about this program and its potential to generate home-grown terrorism.

Clearly, there are serious problems with this program especially in regards to how these individuals are selected and resettled in communities across the United States.

Under the current system, affected communities essentially have no voice in the process. This is extremely troubling considering the fact that these communities will be forced to bear the costs. Local residents should have every right to say no to resettlements within their communities – a protection they unfortunately do not have.

A full examination of this program is long overdue. As one supporter of H.R. 3314 wrote, “I’ve been following this issue for eight years and this is the first time I have seen anyone in Congress (other than recent concerns about Syrian refugees) take a single step to begin to scrutinize the entire program.”

The Resettlement Accountability National Security Act brings much-needed accountability and transparency to this broken program. Our bill exposes the impact it is having on our nation, our economy and communities across the nation.

Dr. Brian Babin is the U.S. Congressional Representative for the 36th District