Refugees Will Cost Taxpayers an Estimated $4.1 Billion in FY 2017
American taxpayers will spend more than $4.1 billion in the 2017 budget to support the 519,018 refugees who have been resettled by the federal government in the United States since October 2009, according to a cost estimate by Breitbart News.
To put that very large number in context, $4.1 billion can buy 10,677 new homes for $384,000 each, which is the average price of a new home sold in the United States in December 2016. Or it could buy 170,124 new autos for $24,100 each, which is the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for a 2017 Chevrolet Malibu.
Even if the Trump administration were to entirely shut down the flow of refugees into the United States in FY 2018 and beyond, the refugees who have already arrived in the country will cost at least another $3.5 billion in 2018, and about $2 billion to $3 billion annually thereafter until FY 2022 and beyond.
The annual $4.1 billion cost of these refugees is about eight percent of “the total annual fiscal impact of first generation [immigrants to the United States] and their dependents, averaged across 2011-2013,” which the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, in September 2016, estimated “is a cost of $57.4 billion.”
That report offered this summary of the characteristics of all immigrants to the United States between 1995 and 2014:
The number of immigrants living in the United States increased by more than 70 percent—from 24.5 million (about 9 percent of the population) in 1995, to 42.3 million (about 13 percent of the population) in 2014; the native-born population increased about 20 percent during the same period.
Annual flows of lawful permanent residents have increased. During the 1980s, just under 600,000 immigrants were admitted legally (received green cards) each year; after the 1990 Immigration Act took effect, legal admissions increased to just under 800,000 per year; since 2001 legal admissions have averaged just over 1 million per year.
Estimates of the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States roughly doubled from about 5.7 million in 1995 to about 11.1 million in 2014.
“For the 2011-2013 period, the net cost to state and local budgets of first generation adults [who have immigrated to the United States] is, on average, about $1,600 each,” the National Academies report found.
The analysis that estimates a $4.1 billion annual cost of refugees is based on the same methodology and data used in a November 2015 study from the non-partisan Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which concluded that “in their first five years in the United States each refugee from the Middle East costs taxpayers $64,370—12 times what the UN estimates it costs to care for one refugee in neighboring Middle Eastern countries.”
The CIS study focused on cost estimates for refugees arriving from ten Middle Eastern countries derived from the 2013 Annual Survey of Refugees contained in the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Annual Report to Congress FY 2013 published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.
The ten Middle Eastern countries included in the 2015 CIS study were Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen.
Those countries accounted for 155,865 of the 519,018 refugees who have been resettled in the United States since FY 2010, according to the State Department’s interactive website.
Breitbart used the data in that same 2013 Annual Survey of Refugees for all countries who send refugees to the United States (more than one hundred countries), and applied the same methodology CIS used to determine the costs for the Middle Eastern refugees within that group.
Our analysis shows that over a five year period, American taxpayers pay $59,251 per refugee, or $5,119 less than the average Middle Eastern refugee over the same period of time.
The 2015 CIS study limited the cost estimates to five years because the 2013 Annual Survey of Refugees data was limited to refugees who had been in the country for five years or less. The survey, then, is of refugees who were resettled in the United States between FY 2009 and FY 2013.
In the Breitbart News estimate, we assumed that those costs would diminish to 50 percent of the annual average for years 1 through 5 in year 6, 25 percent in year 7, 10 percent in year 8, and zero in years 9 and beyond for each refugee.
It is reasonable to assume that overall welfare usage will decline the longer a refugee is in the country.
For instance, per the 2014 Annual Survey, 95 percent of refugees here for a year or less are in the SNAP (Food Stamps) program. By contrast, after 5 years of residence 60 percent of refugees are in the SNAP program—about 4 times the national average.
Leaving aside the inadequate rate at which refugees are leaving some welfare programs, in at least one significant welfare program the rate goes up with each year in the country.