As refugees flee Syria seeking safety from the four-year civil war and the Islamic State, a new study finds it would costs 12 times the United Nations estimate to settle one refugee in the United States.
The Center for Immigration Studies, a pro-border enforcement think tank, frames the choice as bringing one refugee into America or assisting 12 where they are. The CIS study estimates it would cost $64,370 per refugee over the next five years, once all costs are calculated, or $257,481 per household.
“Given limited funds, the high costs of resettling refugees in the United States means that providing for them in neighboring countries in the Middle East is more cost-effective, allowing us to help more people,” said Steven Camarota, the CIS director of research and lead author of the report.
The study actually calls this a "conservative estimate" and determined the costs based on government benefits that refugees have historically received. According to the CIS, 91 percent of Middle Eastern refugees have received food stamps and 68 percent have received cash assistance.
“Very heavy use of welfare programs by Middle Eastern refugees, and the fact that they have only 10.5 years of education on average, makes it likely that it will be many years, if ever, before this population will cease to be a net fiscal drain on public coffers — using more in public services than they pay in taxes,” the report says.
The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement reports that most refugees are “self-sufficient” within five years. However, the CIS report said the ORR defines self-sufficiency only as not receiving cash assistance, but doesn’t count food stamps, public housing or Medicaid.
President Barack Obama directed the State Department to allow at least 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country. Whereas the U.S. has admitted 1,500 since 2011, European countries are facing a mass immigration from Syrian refugees. The State Department has said the screening process for allowing refugees into the country includes in-person interviews and medical exams and can take two years or longer to process.
Migrants can legally enter the United States only through referral from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The UNHCR has requested $1,057 to care for each Syrian refugee. The United Nations reports a gap of $2.5 billion in funding needed for care of 4 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.