‘Given these costs, policymakers have to decide if it makes more sense to settle a modest number here or help many more people overseas…’
Its report, using the lifetime fiscal impact model developed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, calculated not only the administrative costs of resettlement, but also the social services that refugees likely would benefit from when established in the U.S.
“The low education attainment level of so many of today’s refugees means they need a great deal of government assistance,” said Steven Camarota, CIS’s director of research.
“Given these costs, policymakers have to decide if it makes more sense to settle a modest number here or help many more people overseas,” noted Camarota, who co-authored the report.
Not only are those who obtain asylum likely to require—or at least be eligible—for assistance such as welfare and other taxpayer subsidies, but they are likely to give less back in their own taxable wages due to their low earning potential.
The report said that the average lifetime cost to taxpayers for an adult refugee (age 25 to 64) was $133,000, with slightly more than half of that being recouped through taxes.
Of course, those estimates do not take into account the additional programs, such as the Medicare for All variations supported by several Democratic presidential candidates, that would raise those costs exponentially by providing “free,” taxpayer-subsidized health benefits regardless of citizenship status.
The report also assessed the net financial impact of non-refugee immigrants—those who seek a legal pathway to citizenship other than exploiting asylum loopholes—and found that even though there were considerably fewer administrative costs footed by U.S. taxpayers, they, on average, still cost an estimated $36,000 to support over their lifetime.
Also affecting the data were the facts that some traditional immigrants enter into the country as skilled workers, with resources and earning potential that allow them to contribute from the outset. Even those who do require social services are not able to immediately access them as refugees are.
The report did note that refugees who entered the U.S. as children still stood a better chance of yielding a positive financial impact, assuming the educational opportunities and other means of social mobility in the country enabled them to rise above their starting socioeconomic status.
CIS also cautioned that there were more factors than economic ones that needed to be considered in the refugee debate.
“There is a tendency for partisans on both sides of the immigration debate to believe that their values are always reflected in economic data,” the report said.
“For example, advocates have asserted that accepting refugees is not only a moral imperative but also a fiscal boon,” it added. “Similarly, when concerns arise about the cultural compatibility of refugees with American communities, opponents insist the economic cost must be enormous.”
Notwithstanding moral arguments, said the Center, the report simply sought to remind those supporting unfettered access to the country and its benefits that the costs must be factored into the equation.
“Given the costs, it may be possible to help a greater number of displaced people overseas rather than paying to settle them here,” the report said. “Overseas assistance could allow some refugees to eventually resettle in countries where they have stronger cultural or historical ties than they do with the United States.”