At harm's length with refugee resettlement

Friday, April 22, 2016
J.M. Phelps - Guest Columnist

J.M. Phelps ('s the more compassionate solution: flooding the U.S. with a multitude of government-dependent refugees – or caring for an increased number of them in their own part of the world?

The Refugee Act of 1980 demands that the federal government consult regularly with state and local agencies about the sponsorship and placement of refugees.

However, in most states it is incredibly unclear whether the federal government has sufficiently consulted with state and local governments regarding the resettlement of refugees.

In other states, it is borderline deceitful as a result of a program called "Wilson-Fish." In 1984, the Immigration and Nationality Act created the program as an alternative to state government-administrated refugee resettlement programs. (Is your state a Wilson-Fish state?)

The Wilson-Fish program gives the Health and Human Services secretary the authority to implement refugee resettlement programs directly with private contractors or voluntary agencies (VOLAGs).*

For example, one of the VOLAGs – the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) – suggests "providing 100,000 annual resettlement slots for the most vulnerable refugees fleeing the Syria conflict." Who would you consider the most vulnerable? I would propose such a designation would embrace followers of Christ.

The U.S. Department of State's Refugee Admissions Program tells us "a refugee must have a well-founded fear of persecution based on one of the five 'protected grounds': religion, political opinion, race, nationality, and membership in a particular social group."

If religion is one of the five protected grounds – and coincidentally is listed as the first of the five protected grounds – then we must ask ourselves a question: Why are we hearing most about Syrian (Muslim) refugees, and not Christian refugees? It simply doesn't make sense.

I understand many of those working in these contracting organizations care about the refugees, but I am extremely concerned that there's not enough transparency in the process by which they operate.

Because the Wilson-Fish program gives the federal government the authority to implement refugee resettlement programs directly with private contractors, like the USCCB and Catholic Charities, there's an overwhelming propensity for state and local governments to be cut out of the process, despite the fact that our state and local governments will ultimately be required to support these migrants.

In a discussion with Ann Corcoran of Refugee Resettlement Watch, she told me: "It'll trickle down to a local government." She went on to say: "[There is a] system today, where these contractors are paid by the federal government for three months to eight months max, and the contractors are done with them. So, you can imagine, you bring in somebody from an obscure part of the world ... [do] you really think in that in three to eight months, they're going to be on their feet and able to function in America with no help from anybody? Chances are slim to none."

Last year, a Congressional Research Service report shared "that 74 percent of the refugees who arrived in the past five years were on food stamps, 56 percent were accessing Medicaid, 47 percent were receiving cash assistance, and 23 percent were in public housing. Only 11 percent were getting health insurance through an employer."

I spoke recently to Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. He confirmed that for every one refugee resettled to the U.S., we can help 12 refugees in refugee camps who will eventually be repatriated to their homes. So what's more compassionate: flooding our country with a multitude of government-dependent refugees – or caring for an increased number of them in their own part of the world?

Apparently, some of the VOLAGs profit much more from using our tax dollars to move refugees and migrants here than they would if they lobbied to use our tax dollars to settle these people in other locations closer to their origin.

Therefore, I believe the most responsible way we can get resources to people in need – to Christians in need – is through our own personal, tax-deductible contributions to reputable organizations or tithes to the local church.

The relationship should not be between the federal government and a VOLAG. Why are we allowing the feds to assume the role of the church? Surely the relationship should be between an organization or church and the people in need. I have a problem with a faith-based organization (like the USCCB, for example) that collects taxpayer money from the government, while also being required to say no to proselytizing – to say no to sharing the Christian faith.

Policies regarding who enters the U.S. are determined by the federal government, not the states. Although a state may not be able to prevent the admittance of refugees into the U.S., a state shouldn't be required to participate in efforts to provide refugees with services to facilitate the resettlement of refugees in the state.

State and local governments need to determine if they have the absorptive capacity (either in terms of its economy, social services, and/or law enforcement) to integrate additional refugees.

It isn't bigoted or "Islamaphobic" to address these concerns. On the contrary, it is responsible governing and leadership to do so. Not only does it show concern for the financial burden this could place on each of us in the future, but it also raises many concerns about threats to our national security.

We should be gravely concerned about our security, given the fact that our nation is taking in tens of thousands of migrants from the very same nations that are home to deadly ideologies and violent terrorist organizations and networks that are working overtime to destroy America.


* To learn more about VOLAGs, read James Simpson's book "The Red-Green Axis: Refugees, Immigration and the Agenda to Erase America."

J.M. Phelps and his wife, Cori, are general managers of Covenant Spotlight. He is a regularly contributing author to the monthly magazine, which is based in Louisiana.

This column is printed with permission. Opinions expressed in 'Perspectives' columns published by are the sole responsibility of the article's author(s), or of the person(s) or organization(s) quoted therein, and do not necessarily represent those of the staff or management of, or advertisers who support the American Family News Network,, our parent organization or its other affiliates.

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