With all the strife and chaos in the world, it is understandable that many people want to flee the countries they are living in. Since the mid-1960s, the United States has done more than its fair share to accommodate refugees. Yet with crises erupting across the globe, we simply cannot empty out entire regions and invite them into the country.
This week, the State Department, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of Health and Human Services hosted an online webinar directing private agencies that provide services to refugees how to navigate the system and outlining the available benefits.
It turns out that there is a smorgasbord of goodies – everything that U. S. citizens are eligible for, including help getting mortgages. Around 140,000 refugees and asylees arrive in the United States each year, including Unaccompanied Alien Minors, people from Cuba and Haiti, certified victims of human trafficking and special visa holders from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Earning this status is like winning the lottery. Federal, state and local governments ensure that refugees get housing, furniture, clothing, food and pocket money immediately upon arrival, which is understandable, since many of these people came from privation and have suffered. If they have children, they are eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which expanded Medicaid.
It is a great idea to give them a health screenings, since 20 percent of all refugees coming to Minnesota tested positive for tuberculosis. They also get Social Security cards, entrepreneurial training, English language services, help with enrolling their children in school and assistance for these children to transition to school, all for a $283.5 million federal outlay in FY2016, a sum that the private partners must match.
Though the stated goal is for all refugees to achieve economic self-sustainability through employment, offering so many immediate services often fosters a culture of entitlement and removes the incentive to become a self-sufficient member of society.
As soon as a refugee lands in the United States, social services – some of which time out – kick in. There are nine resettlement agencies operating in 185 communities. The Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Refugee Assistance Program attempts to get their charges signed up for welfare within a week and encourages older, disabled people to register for Social Security so that they can get benefits, even though they have never put a dime into the system.
The major programs include food stamps, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income. During the webinar, one government official crowed about the expansion of Medicaid beyond children under Obamacare. Then there’s education, child-care and transportation assistance.
In the webinar presentation, helping refugees find employment seemed to be a lesser priority, though one official claimed that 76 percent of all clients reached economic self-sufficiency within 180 days of arrival. But refugees use social services in large proportions and students with Limited English Proficiency generally make slow progress, so the path to upward mobility has some obstacles. Consider this: if the refugees speak little English and possess few skills, how are they going to integrate into society and find meaningful, well-paid work?
Giving away a raft of handouts creates pliable, government-dependent populations and does little to ensure that new refugees will strike out on their own by using their skills and talents to benefit society and themselves.