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Secrecy surrounds refugee program in Tennessee (your state too!)

Posted by Ann Corcoran on June 25, 2016

This is an opinion piece published in The Tennessean yesterday and posted in its entirety here with permission from the author.

Barnett is an expert on the UN/US State Department Refugee Admissions Program and its history having followed its progression for literally two decades.

From The Tennessean:

Before the Refugee Act of 1980, refugee resettlement was the work of true sacrificial charity, where sponsors and charities committed to maintaining and supporting the refugees with housing and employment, even medical care if needed. There was an explicit bar to the access of welfare benefits. The sponsor was responsible for all costs. This helped to guarantee assimilation and is how we absorbed post-WWII refugees, those fleeing communist oppression in Eastern Europe, the Hungarian Revolution and other upheavals.

Don Barnett 2

Barnett is a longtime resident of the Nashville, TN area

With the 1980 Refugee Act and related laws, the charities morphed into money-making federal contractors whose main job is to link the refugees with social services and welfare benefits. The 1980 act made all welfare available to refugees upon arrival — for life, if eligibility is maintained.

Originally, the Refugee Act included three years of federal refugee cash assistance and medical insurance. As well, state governments were reimbursed for their expenditures on welfare used by refugees, such as Medicaid (TennCare), for three years. By 1991, reimbursement from the feds for state welfare expenditures had been completely eliminated and the three-year period of refugee cash and medical assistance for refugees was limited to eight months.

According to the most recent government data, even those refugees in the country for five years are largely dependent on taxpayer largesse. Sixty percent of this group receives food stamps and 17 percent are on the cash welfare program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). A nationwide U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study shows 44 percent are still in Medicaid and 29 percent of families who have been here for five years have one or more members on the lifetime cash welfare program Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

This gives an idea of the costs to the federal taxpayer and of the unfunded federal mandate placed upon state taxpayers by this program.

Because of the byzantine structure of Tennessee’s program, there is no way to get exact costs. Both the state refugee coordinator and state refugee health coordinator, who are supposed to represent the state and its taxpayers, are actually employees of Catholic Charities, the federal contractor whose income rises in direct proportion to the numbers of refugees resettled. Further, the salary for both of these positions is paid not by the contractor, but by the feds. How’s that for a conflict of interest?

In a healthy and open environment, information would be made available from these two sources, which would help in evaluating program success and program costs, such as use of TennCare by refugees, rates of infection with communicable disease and so on. Alas, because of incentives and disincentives built into the refugee coordinators’ jobs, the best strategy for them is to withhold information.

Secrecy surrounds all aspects of the program. We have no idea what it is costing Tennessee. Statistics about medical conditions among refugees are secret. Even the numbers of refugee arrivals proposed for next year is a secret. And when arrival numbers are reported, after the fact, they are routinely reported as lower than actual numbers by conveniently neglecting to include categories of resettlement that are not official refugees, but that have the same entitlements — and benefits to the contractor — as refugees.

Orwellian use of language allows for absurd claims about refugee economic integration. For instance, refugees are considered officially “self-sufficient” even if they receive every federal welfare benefit except TANF. Refugees in temporary jobs or training programs are counted as “employed.” An unpublicized federal audit from 1999 obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request found that Memphis Catholic Charities was dropping refugees off at a day labor lot and reporting them as “employed.”

It was never intended that the sponsors, known as “Voluntary Agencies,” would be purely federal contractors with all the behavior, untoward incentives, money and influence peddling that this brings. Yet, that is what we have today.

There would be no issue with this program if refugees were resettled in the traditional way America has always absorbed refugees. As long as the current resettlement model persists, it is imperative that Tennesseans have a say in how state resources are used. The state attorney general should proceed with SJR 467 challenging the federal government’s presumed authority over state resources.

We have previously posted op-eds by Don Barnett or written about his work, click here for posts mentioning Barnett.

12 Responses to “Secrecy surrounds refugee program in Tennessee (your state too!)”

  1. […] Secrecy surrounds refugee program in Tennessee (your state too!) […]


  2. […] Read More […]


  3. Dr. Rich Swier said

    Great. Published:

    Same in Florida.


    On Sat, Jun 25, 2016 at 2:52 PM, Refugee Resettlement Watch wrote:

    > Ann Corcoran posted: “This is an opinion piece published in The > Tennessean yesterday and posted in its entirety here with permission from > the author. Barnett is an expert on the UN/US State Department Refugee > Admissions Program and its history having followed its progressio” >


  4. I am checking out the agencies here in Houston. Noticing that muslims are in the cockpit on many of these agencies. Some of them just recently turned US citizens already getting jobs in charge of bringing in their fellow countrymen. Have you noticed this?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mike Clark said

    This is total hypocracy on the part of Catholic Charties , I believe in helping my fellow man , but not contributing tax dollars to institutions interested in increasing their bottom line . Especially when they will not advise local communities or States , where these people are being settled. Governor Chris Christie in NJ. Has said on many occasions , Catholic Charities and other Religious Organizations who are under contract with theFederal Government , will never tell those states and local communities where these refugees are being settled , al on orders from this Corrupt Hussein Obama Administration and DHS . This is beyond the scope of fairness to the American taxpayers and their children, & their Children’s Children who will have to pay back this enormous debt that this administration has put on us to the tune of $10 Trillion Dollars . If you have any love for your family and grand children we need to stop this atrocity now. Vote every democrat out of office in November that are the most worthless party in American History.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. cheri54 said

    Reblogged this on cheri54 and commented:
    Reblogged from Refugee Resettlement Watch web site.


  7. kerberos616 said

    Reblogged this on Kerberos616.


  8. Wishing that States would sue for unfunded liabilities, make during discovery the real cost to taxpayers…maybe Trump will push for top to bottom audit!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ann Corcoran said

      That is exactly what the TN case is attempting to do. The state legislature already voted to sue on tenth amendment grounds and the REPUBLICAN gov is dragging his feet!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on Rifleman III Journal.


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