Time To Cap The Refugee Industry

The town around the United Nations' Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya—staging ground for the current controversial importation of Somali Bantu into Middle America—grew from 5,000 in 1990 to 40,000 in 2000. Kenyans from other parts of the country moved in to take advantage of social services, jobs and trading opportunities that sprang up around the U.N. camp.

So dependent on U.N. refugee camps are some areas in Kenya that local residents staged demonstrations last year to protest closure of one of them.

Worldwide, the U.N. has officially recognized about 12 million people as "refugees." They may well finish up here. Since 1992, over three-quarters (77%) of the U.N.-recognized refugees who were resettled permanently in industrialized countries came to the U.S. (UNHCR, Refugees Magazine, Vol. 4, Num 129, Jan 2003 - PDF, 1.5 MB).

And, as in Kenya, a refugee industry has grown up here in the U.S. It forms an "Iron Triangle" exactly like the Civil Rights Industry's iron triangle that Hugh Graham described in Collision Course, his pathbreaking study of the "convergence of affirmative action and immigration policy in America": 1) interest group; 2) Congressional Committee; 3) federal agency.

The refugee Iron Triangle is also aided by a lawyer lobby—and a media which is seemingly incapable of reporting truthfully on the issue.

The Refugee Industry as we know it would end tomorrow if even one quarter of refugee costs were the responsibility of its champions.

The largest such champion: the Roman Catholic Church. As the Acton Institute's Father Robert A. Sirico has demonstrated, Catholic charities have become addicted to federal money. Money is fungible. Because the taxpayer pays many of the bills for its social vision, the Catholic Church has funds to spend on political advocacy—and $1 billion in hush money to cover up a decades-long sex scandal. (I am afraid President Bush's Faith Based Initiative will only expand this dysfunctional model.)

The second-largest refugee resettlement contractor, in terms of refugees recently resettled in the U.S.: the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Jewish refugee immigration from the former Soviet Union [FSU] to the U.S. has fallen off dramatically in recent years. An incredible 500,000 Jews have come here since the 1980s. But now the FSU is simply running out of Jews. Also important, Jews leaving the FSU are now being directed to Israel, instead of their preferred destinations in the West. They are needed for Israel's demographic policy.

The Forward reports ("Community Questioning 'Open Door'", by Nacha Cattan, 11/29/2002) that

"Jewish immigration agencies such as the New York Association for New Americans have seen their refugee budgets halved in the past three years alone, while the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society has openly debated what role Jewish immigration agencies should play in an era without large numbers of Jewish immigrants."

So what "role" does the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society decide to play? It opens a satellite office in Nairobi Kenya—where it will most certainly be facilitating African Muslim refugee immigration to the U.S. (About 50% of today's UNHCR refugees are from Muslim countries, not including Palestinians who are counted on the books of another UN refugee agency, UNRWA.)

This may seem paradoxical, given Jewish concerns about the growing Muslim population in the U.S. But Leonard Glickman, president and CEO of HIAS and formerly a spokesman for the U.S. Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, told the Forward's Cattan:

"The more diverse American society is the safer [Jews] are."

Refugee admissions to the U.S. declined sharply in 2002 as a result of 9/11. But most experts expect this decline will be temporary. A suggestion to temporarily "re-program" federal money from domestic resettlement agencies to refugee assistance programs overseas—where funds are quite literally hundreds of times more effective—was angrily denounced by those resettlement contractors at a January 2002 meeting with State Department officials.

The State Department capitulated. It kept funding at the previous year's level—even though the contractors were dealing with less than half the refugee caseload.

Additionally, State agreed to allow the refugee contractors a more influential role in picking refugees for admission to the U.S.

Make that an Iron Triangle of interest group, Congressional Committee and weak federal agency.

Remember this when advocates for higher refugee admissions start talking about the "indivisibility of humankind" or of refugees as a "borderless" problem—and thus a matter of collective international responsibility.

These American refugee advocates chose to steal the paltry food rations from overseas refugee camps to preserve their cushy D.C. jobs.

The Refugee Industry has also spawned a new academic discipline, "Refugee Studies." Some of its ideologists are demanding an international "rights-based regime," under which individuals officially designated as refugees by the U.N. would never be confined to a camp, but automatically allowed to settle wherever they wish.

This may seem a distant dream today. But there is serious discussion about creating an international clearing house which assigns refugees more or less automatically to host countries based on a formula which weighs host country GDP, population density and other measures of stability and wealth.

The more successful the country, the larger will be its per capita refugee quota.

Guess what that means?

This is not to minimize the suffering of refugees. Nor to say the U.S. should not participate in helping find solutions.

But the U.S. is already the largest single contributor to U.N. refugee work. It pays about a quarter of the budget for the UNHCR and UNRWA.

And the U.S. could fully fund 10 UNHCRs with what it spends on resettlement of refugees in the U.S., including their ongoing welfare costs.

Personally, I can accept that it might be appropriate to resettle some refugees in America. But before any New World Order refugee resettlement regime takes form, the U.S. should re-visit legislation capping refugee admissions.

Currently, the refugee quota is set each year by the Administration in consultation with Congress and various interest groups. It is a tempting prize to hand out in exchange for political support.

A legislated cap, say to 25,000 a year, would reduce the value of the quota as a political tool. It would also free up more resources for refugee assistance overseas. Granted, overseas aid too can be politicized, as can the very designation of who the U.S. should regard as a "refugee." But at least overseas refugee programs would not result in the displacement and dispossession of Americans in their own home towns.

An admissions cap was considered at the time of the original 1980 Refugee Act. The idea has been discussed from time to time since then. This may be the last chance. U.S. foreign policy increasingly converges with the global human rights agenda—part of which has always called for a permanent high-volume flow of refugees to the West.

In the wake of 9-11, there would be considerable popular support for an admissions cap—if it were to be openly and honestly debated.

We know who would oppose any such debate—and now we know why.