by Thomas Allen (June 2009)
Delivered to the New English Review Symposium May 30th, 2009.
Part I: Waving Terror Through – the Visa Waiver Program
Nationals from 35 countries ( Western Europe including Malta and some not so Western countries such as Brunei, Latvia, Hungary and others) can enter the U.S. without a visa on the Visa Waiver Program.
Today, roughly one half of temporary visitors to the U.S. come in under the relatively new Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The streamlined visitor entry program became permanent in 2000 just in time for 9/11. In fact, Zacarias Moussaoui, a convicted 9/11 conspirator, entered the U.S. on the VWP, Feb 23, 2001. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, was also a would-be VWP entrant.
In a review of the program when it was in pilot prior to 2000, INS inspectors found that “identified terrorists and criminals believed they would receive less scrutiny during the inspection process if they applied under the VWPP and would have a greater chance of entering without being intercepted.”
That’s for sure – there is no U.S. consular interview or pre-inspection for travelers from VWP countries. Their first encounter with U.S. officials is on U.S. soil where they are pretty much waived through if they have a passport from a VWP country. After all, these are mostly Western countries with which we have relaxed travel reciprocity agreements. But wait, the current issue of the Georgetown Immigration Law Journal notes in an article (The Role Of Immigration In A Coordinated National Security Policy, Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, Vol 21:383 2007 by Donald Kerwin and Margaret D. Stock) [PDF] that a “A recent quantitative study of more than 300 Islamic terrorists found that forty-one percent were nationals ofWestern countries…”
No surprise, the article finds that “Terrorists both live in VWP countries and can be expected to use stolen passports from VWP countries.”.
Belgium recently had the highest rate of stolen passports in the world. Part of a Belgian passport’s value on the black market is as an entrée to the U.S. on the VWP.
Though the USA PATRIOT Act now requires participating countries to issue machine-readable passports which include biometric identifiers and and other recent U.S. law requires these countries to track and report lost or stolen passports, don’t expect major changes soon since the VWP supposedly provides economic benefits to the U.S. and convenience to U.S. travelers.
The Law Journal reports:
An April 2004 report by the DHS Inspector General criticized: (1) the program’s uncertain leadership; (2) its failure to perform mandatory reviews of participating countries; (3) its failure to collect information on the use of fraudulent passports in the program; (4) inadequate training on passport fraud for inspectors at ports-of-entry; and (5) the ability of VWP participants to avoid the US-VISIT entry/exit system. The program remains the U.S. immigration system’s area of greatest vulnerability. (Italics added)
Part II: The Refugee Resettlement Program
One of the main avenues of immigration into the U.S. of radical Muslims is the U.S. refugee program, a program which at one time was aligned with the national interest and which at one time was a true charitable endeavor characterized by responsibility and accountability.
Today it is an out of control federal government program, wholly paid for by tax dollars and run to a large degree by the U.N. , profit-making contractors and individuals who themselves recently arrived in the U.S. on the refugee program. It is totally divorced from the national interest.
The program is not well understood; there is little in-depth reporting about it and I have found even members of congress have almost no understanding of how it really works.
The refugee program of today is a result of the 1980 refugee act, sponsored by among others, Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy.
It’s purpose was to provide for resettlement to the U.S. for those who have been forced to flee their country of origin. Each year the executive branch sets a quota, broken down by region, for the number of refugees to be admitted in the coming year.
First a quick definition:
A refugee is a person, by legal definition, who has fled his or her country of origin and has a “well-founded fear of persecution based on membership in a political, racial, ethnic, religious or social group”. It generally means the person is unable to return home because of this persecution.
An asylum seeker is a person who merely shows up in the U.S. – having overstayed a temporary visa or crossed the border illegally claiming persecution in the home country on the same five grounds mentioned earlier - persecution based on membership in a political, racial, ethnic, religious or social group..
The 1980 refugee act anticipated about 50,000 refugees per year and about 1,000 asylum grants per year.
But the average number of refugees per year since 1980 has run at about 100,000 per year plus about 20,000 Cubans who enjoy all the rights and entitlements of refugees. The number of successful asylum seekers per year has averaged more than 20,000 per year since the 90’s. (30,500 in 2000 alone)
The U.S. resettles more refugees to its shores than the rest of the western world combined. And in fact from 1992- 2002, 77% of those resettled in the developed world came to the U.S. (UNHCR,Refugees Vol 4, Num 129, Jan 2002)
I have grouped together refugees, asylees and Cubans as they all enjoy extraordinary humanitarian immigration rights based on supposed persecution in their home country. They also all have full access to welfare on the same basis as a U.S. citizen 30 days after arrival and a fast track to a green card and citizenship.
As the Cold War came to a close, the focus of the refugee program shifted from groups fleeing our cold war adversaries to those trying to escape crises in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
This shift from 2 main sources – the East Bloc and Southeast East Asia to literally dozens of other sources in the developing world was underway when the 911 attacks occurred.
In 1990 the number of Muslims entering on the refugee program was near 0. By 911 about half of the refugee flow was Muslim. The attacks brought a temporary slowdown to the program, but the program has mostly recovered and there is tremendous pressure to increase the quota dramatically with most of the political elite, the business community and, of course, the refugee advocates themselves pushing for higher admission rates. This pressure is coming from both the right and the left.
The definition of a refugee has been widely stretched by all 3 branches of the government - the Judiciary, Congress and the Administration. Though we have a definition (well-founded fear of persecution based on membership in a political, racial, ethnic, religious or social group), basically Congress can name whatever group it wants to be a refugee. The definition of a refugee, for the most part, applies also to asylees.
As an example of Congress’s ability to designate whatever group it wants as refugees it passed a law declaring China’s one-child policy to be an example pf persecution based upon a “political view”. This is more than just foolish interference in another country’s domestic affairs, it is an inducement to undertake the risk of being smuggled into America on the chance that your asylum claim now has an improved chance of being accepted.
Chinese smuggling gangs, known as snakeheads, use the “guarantee” of asylum with all the benefits it brings to lure individuals into a dangerous trip that most likely will NOT bring the holy grail of a green card.
Chinese nationals now head up the list of asylees. (Recently, as high as 9,000 per year.) And for each of the successful 9,000 who obtained asylum at least 2-3 failed in their bid, but stayed in the country illegally anyway.
Congress passed the Lautenberg amendment of 1989 which mandated a near automatic presumption of a “well-founded” fear of persecution on the part of Soviet Jews, Soviet evangelicals, certain Vietnamese and certain Ukrainian denominations. In other words, a much reduced evidentiary standard of proof of persecution for individuals who can show membership in these categories.
Allowing admission based upon group membership instead of individual review on a case by case basis is totally counter to refugee law as it has been traditionally understood.
In U.S. refugee law, the refugee designation “social group” has been a wide-open loophole through which a truck can be driven.
People have successfully obtained asylum in the U.S. based upon domestic abuse from their family at home, FGM and even because of the lack of services for the disabled in the country they left.
Throughout the 80’s and especially the 90’s, most refugees to the U.S. were not really refugees in any common sense definition of the term – remember it was mostly driven by cold war needs and the Vietnam war and I should add domestic political constituencies.
The Lautenberg Amendment is still re-authorized every year and has recently been extended to cover Iranian minorities with its blanket group based presumption of persecution.
Because Lautenberg was not re-evaluated for post cold war realities there have been almost comical side effects: one of the larger refugee groups coming in to the U.S. today is made up of Russian Evangelicals. They are not persecuted in Russia and most have not encountered so much as a slur in their native land. No organizations, U.N. or otherwise, considers them to be refugees, yet they continue to get automatic refugee status by the U.S. .
The Soviets and Cubans and very likely Vietnamese dumped their criminals into the refugee flow to the U.S. Some notorious Russian organized crime figures came over with automatic refugee status, chronicled by the late Robert Friedman.
So what is propelling the U.S. refugee resettlement program?
One of the most important driving forces in the U.S. refugee program is profit. And again the beneficiaries are from all areas of contemporary American society and from all points along the political spectrum.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a big booster of expanded refugee admission.
Tyson Foods is one of the world’s largest producers and distributors of beef, pork and chicken products. Upper management at Tyson recently escaped conviction on criminal conspiracy charges because of employment of illegal immigrants.
There were convictions of plant-level managers for intentionally hiring illegals and Tyson’s legal problems with illegal labor are not over yet .
A class-action civil suit is beginning this Spring against Tyson vis a vis its hiring practices and illegal immigration.
Clearly, Tyson has gotten the message about hiring illegals.
Now it sees poor refugees and asylum seekers as a legal way to keep a flow of cheap, high-turnover labor coming.
This cheap labor, while benefiting Tyson and many other companies is actually very costly as it comes with a large bill for social services.
Looking at the most recent data on Refugee usage of welfare we see that among those arriving in the past 5 years about 55% are receiving food stamps, 33.7% receive some sort of cash assistance, 20.5% are in public housing. Perhaps up to 10% on a waiting list for public housing. Many refugees go permanently on welfare, including cash welfare (SSI), 14.8%. 44% receive Medicaid.
The cost of the refugee resettlement program is often quoted in the media as running around 1 billion a year. However, this does not include the cost of ongoing welfare and social services. Including this cost, which falls on the taxpayer, easily brings the cost of the program to 10 billion per year.
Another huge profit center is with the refugee resettlement organizations themselves. Refugee resettlement is very profitable to the organizations involved in it.
You will hear them referred to in the media as “charities”, NGO’s and sometimes “voluntary agencies” or volags. And they are organizations with names that might give you the impression that they are religion-affiliated charities. Names like U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops – the biggest by far in recent years; Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Hebrew Immigrant aid Society, Church world Services and so on.
There are 10 major organizations involved. But together with affiliates – some very loosely tethered to the parent, there are some 400 organizations involved in this program in the U.S..
They may have been charities at one time, but public (taxpayer) money has totally driven out private money in refugee resettlement.
Traditionally, refugee sponsors had to provide shelter and guarantee employment for at least a year. There were bars to welfare access placed on refugees from WWII, the Hungarian uprising in 1956, the Cuban revolution and those fleeing the East bloc. The sponsors practiced true sacrificial charity.
I think it is safe to say the program would end tomorrow if it was returned to its traditional roots of sponsor accountability, responsibility and charity.
With the 1980 Refugee Act and related legislation, the charities morphed into federal contractors with tremendous profit incentives to grow the program.
These NGO’s are federal contractors who take a net profit from operations - not at all different from any other federal contractor.
The contractors are paid to bring refugees over – less so to care for, or help them with assimilation them once they are here. In fact, 4 months after arrival they have no contractual obligations to the refugees they “sponsored”. They don’t even have to know where their “sponsored” refugees are residing. That model may have worked for a Soviet Jewish refugee joining relatives in a community in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, but not for a Somali Bantu who may never have flushed a toilet before getting passage to the U.S. as a refugee.
During the 90's the U.S. State Department offered a program, known as the private sector initiative under which refugee sponsoring organizations could bring over refugees if they paid all costs associated with resettlement. The refugee agencies refused to use this program, preferring instead the model under which they actually make money by bringing in refugees. Here are some of the grants and contracts they profit from:
1. A per capita grant from the U.S. State Department for each refugee it sponsors. $850 for each family member, including children.
2. 25% of every transportation loan it collects from refugees it sponsors.
3. up to $2,200 dollars for each refugee by participating in a DHHS program known as the Matching Grant Program. To get the $2,000, LIRS needs only provide $200 in actual money plus 800 dollars worth of donated clothes and furniture.
5. Money is available from an array of other federal and state grants as well – These groups are among the first in line for Faith Based money, Marriage Initiative money, Ownership Society money, USDA grants, Justice Department grants and so on.
Again, remember the refugees they sponsor are eligible for all forms of welfare within 1 month of arrival.
Another dynamic that has to be noted is that recently arrived refugees are employed or are now running some of the approximately 400 non-governmental organizations resettling refugees to the U.S.. Of course they advocate for their group to come over who in turn find government supported jobs in which they can advocate for more entrants.
As with other government-dependent industries there is a revolving door between the refugee industry and the federal government which pays its bills. It has become a self-perpetuating mechanism with all of the usual problems that come with government dependant programs.
Until the 80’s, the program was limited by the responsibilities and capacity of the organizations involved to absorb the refugees. Now that they are contractors, not charities, these controls are no longer in place.
One particularly troubling development is that the contractors are gaining broad influence over refugee policy.
That is, they are traveling the globe looking for groups to bring over. There are obvious conflict of interest questions around giving power to pick refugees for resettlement to a refugee resettlement contractor which makes its money on a per refugee basis, especially if that contractor is essentially an exclusive ethnic club which some of the lower-level affiliates are.
I can refer you to a recent state department policy paper which details this - by David Martin called “a new era of U.S. refugee resettlement.” See a discussion of the policy paper in A New Era of Refugee Resettlement at FrontPageMag.com.
All refugee flows will have long-term demographic consequences on the U.S.
These flows always last longer than planned, in fact they never really stop. 35 years after the Vietnam war, we are still taking refugees from Vietnam. (about 1,500 per year) Not only does the flow not stop, but it determines the demographics to a large degree of non-refugee immigration. That is, refugee immigration turns into non-refugee immigration. (about 30,000 Vietnamese are immigrating to the US per year, another 40,000 arrive on non-immigrant visa – some percentage with plans to stay.)
The refugee influx also determines who will immigrate illegally.
Somalis have been a significant nationality in the refugee program for a few years now and promise to become a major group since we committed to taking the so-called ‘somali bantu’ in about 2000.
Somalia is a so-called “country of concern” to the U.S. government because Al Qaeda affiliate operations there.
A June 2006 UN News service report found Somalis are using United Nations refugee camps in Zambia as ‘stepping stones’ to the U.S..
According to the story, the Somalis first settle in Zambian refugee camps and then from there slip into neighboring Zimbabwe and Namibia. From there they filter into South Africa, boarding ships bound… for Mexico. According to the Zambian Secretary of interior Peter Mumba, "once in Mexico, they can easily walk into the USA as their final destination." [ ZAMBIA: Concern over Somalis leaving refugee camp, June 5, 2006] **
It is ironic, that in a post-911 world we have set in motion a self-perpetuating mechanism which is bringing in more Muslims – many with no intention to assimilate or even following a reverse assimilation model where the succeeding generations become increasingly alienated and radicalized.
As noted the percentage of Muslim refugees to the U.S. went from 0 in 1990 to 44% in 1999. There was a major slowdown in the refugee flow right after 911 and particularly of refugees from Muslim countries so that in 2003 the percentage of Muslims was at 24%.
The 3 factors which make for refugee-creating circumstances are population density, diversity, and Islam or at least radical Islamist government.
I have tried to get the exact count of Muslim refugees in recent years. The U.S. is on track to take about 80,00 refugees this year and an additional 20,000 asylees.
Even HIAS (the Hebrew immigrant aid society) now sponsors Muslim refugees. I asked HIAS what the percentage of Muslims is among the refugees they bring over and was told by the spokesman in N.Y. that “due to the sensitive nature of the information” they could not tell me.
I called US Catholic Conference of Bishops. This is the largest contractor by far in the business and one which has shifted the focus of Catholic Social service agencies away from traditional charities - charity that doesn’t pay – to charity that does pay – refugee resettlement. They also refused to answer my question. US Catholic Conference of Bishops spokesman Kevin Appleby angrily hung up on me when I asked a simple question about the religious composition of USCCB refugees.
This year about 40% of the flow is Muslim – Iraq, Iran and Somalia. Much of the flow from Iraq and Iran is non-Muslim, so I estimate that about 25% of refugees today are Muslim
Strange, no one knows the religious makeup of the refugee flow. The State department does not track by religion, DHS does not track by religion. Yet religion is a legal basis for refugee status; we have the Bush administration Faith Based Initiative under which all of the refugee contractors get grants; we have the Commission of International Religious Freedom which has as one of its missions helping the “religiously persecuted” move to the U.S. yet no one can say who from which religion is getting in.
State dept personnel or contractors are in 40 different locations, considering 60 different nationalities for the program.
Ultimately, it is the UN which formally makes the determination of which individuals get to the U.S. as refugees. People move to refugee camps in order to meet formal requirements for the program, they bribe their way to the top of the list. Once in the U.S., they are anchors for friends and family. Those friends and family, in the US on, say, a temporary visa can walk into any of 100’s of VOLAG offices in the U.S. and get advice about how best to make an asylum claim or petition for relatives to come over with all the rights and entitlements of refugees.
This from a recent US government report:
This magnet effect or pull factor forms an increasingly pervasive worry for host countries and sometimes for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in thinking about resettlement initiatives. Those parties also worry that providing a resettlement option [i.e. to the West] will interfere with pursuit of other durable solutions — local integration or voluntary repatriation. …
The temptation to fraud is great in refugee programs, because resettlement often represents such a highly valued solution for persons in desperate situations. In today’s conditions, the fraud problem has probably worsened, owing to modern communications and the growth of organized crime or other enterprises trying to make money from facilitating a person’s inclusion in a resettlement program.
Traditional categories for resettlement referrals, especially the category for ‘women at risk,’ can become self-fulfilling. When it becomes known that resettlement is possible on this ground, families may separate to enable the woman to win a referral for herself and the children and perhaps be able to bring the husband later.
Further, some women successfully heading households in a refugee settlement may begin to portray their situations in a sharply different light, or even expose themselves to greater dangers, so as to try to come within the category. …
The temptations in this field have also sometimes resulted in damaging corruption or manipulation on the part of certain UNHCR officials or others in a responsible role, who find they can extract large bribes or other personal favors for moving certain cases to the head of the resettlement line.
Family reunification refugee status had become a vast fraudulent enterprise among Somalis, so much so that the State Department halted the processing of family members from anywhere last year. When they checked – about 90% of Somali claims were fraudulent.
Next month, Family reunification will resume for the entire program.
But the relationship of original anchor family will not be tested and the reality of polygamy will frustrate attempts to control program growth.
The original refugee family can come over with any number of children either from various wives or related to neither the husband nor the wife. Those children become the basis for their mother’s refugee status entitlement, verifiable by DNA testing. These mothers can bring their parents in, who in turn can bring in their other children, who…and so on.
According to the State Department paper cited earlier, the State Department’s refugee bureau must “develop a sense of mission about adding one or two new [refugee] groups to the [U.S. refugee] pipeline development process each month and think of itself as the component in the decision making system that gives the benefit of the doubt to resettlement”
In other words the State Department must become the principle backer of the U.S. refugee resettlement NGO’s and must more actively promote resettlement to the U.S. rather than treat resettlement as a last resort after other approaches - return home or integration into the host society or a neighboring country - have failed.
Their plan is to define refugee groups very narrowly thereby keeping the groups small. This is impossible. Once a group is designated as a refugee group, its numbers start expanding. The chance for a generous reception in the West is just too tempting and once here they join the expanding contractor/advocacy community. That is the dynamic we must consider and accept with every decision made about admitting more refugees.
Further complicating things, once a refugee population gets any hint that it will be settled in the U.S., the potential refugee beneficiaries, advised by their "advocacy community" and federal contractors here in the U.S. refuse to consider other options, such as going home or resettling in a nearby country. Instead of offering this inducement, we should make more aggressive use of “strings-attached” foreign aid to induce countries hosting refugees to integrate those refugees into their society.
No refugee flow to the U.S. has ever stopped with the originally designated group and, in fact, the small-groups model is likely to set off multiple self-propagating flows, some of which have the potential to reach the size of the Cold War flows from southeast Asia and the former USSR.
This new direction in refugee resettlement has set off wildly escalating expectations around the world and could expand the program to record high levels.
All refugee politics may soon become local. Lately, instead of placing the refugees in a few main reception centers the U.S. is distributing refugees across hundreds of medium and small towns.
The U.S. refugee program is barely mentioned in the national media except for the occasional boilerplate human interest story.
But In contrast to the national media, which has ignored this story, independent local papers have provided considerable reporting on issues arising with refugee resettlement. Most of these issues revolve around the cost of social services and the collision of cultures as small towns attempt to accommodate demands for things like Islamic ritual foot baths and needs of primitive tribes people who may not be familiar with even the most basic modern amenities. TB and to some degree HIV (barred for normal immigrants, but not for refugees) are huge concerns. Last year a Tyson worker, a Somali refugee, died from TB.
Since the refugee inflow has changed to a much more diverse third world population which is being distributed ever more broadly across the country, it is now much more visible to the average American.
Google up “Emporia Kansas Somali refugee”, “Shelbyville Tennessee Somali refugee”, “Nashville Tennessee refugee”, “Sedalia, Mo.”, “Hagerstown MD, refugee” to see colorful local reporting on the issue and very busy citizen blogs.
I suggest U.S. resources would be much more effectively used helping refugees on the ground where they are. Some estimates are that 500 refugees can be helped overseas for each refugee brought here.
Yet the NGO’s have vigorously resisted even temporary “re-programming” of their grant money to overseas assistance because it would cut into their profits.
See the report “Out of Africa, Somali Bantu and the Paradigm Shift in Refugee Resettlement”.
Refugee sponsorship should more closely model America’s traditional welcome to refugees by requiring more of the sponsors. The sponsors must not walk away from their clients. As sponsoring groups become more involved with refugees, prospects for assimilation will improve.
The U.S. should be responsive to refugee crises around the world. The question is what is the appropriate response? For various reasons, large-scale resettlement to the U.S. is looming larger as our first choice of action. In fact, it is the least appropriate of our options.
To comment on this article, please click here.
To help New English Review continue to publish informative and timely articles such as this one, please click here.