Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
One of the promises President Donald Trump made on the campaign trail was to deny millions of refugees admission to the United States, claiming they were hurting Americans’ job prospects and were potential terrorists.
It isn’t unusual, though, for a president to receive additional information contradicting a campaign claim after taking office.
But we’re talking about Trump.
In a March memorandum implementing his travel ban, Trump asked for a study to reinforce his position on refugees.
He got it, but it wasn’t what he expected.
“[Refugees] contributed an estimated $269.1 billion in revenues to all levels of government. Overall, this report estimated that the net fiscal impact of refugees was positive over the 10-year period, at $63 billion.”
White House spokesman, Raj Shah, countered the study’s results with the following:
“This leak was delivered by someone with an ideological agenda, not someone looking at hard data. The actual report pursuant to the presidential memorandum shows that refugees with few skills coming from war-torn countries take more government benefits from the Department of Health and Human Services than the average population, and are not a net benefit to the U.S. economy.”
But looking at hard data is exactly what HHS did, relying upon the Transfer Income Model (TRIM), used since 1973, producing credible estimates of public benefit use and tax payments.
“In an average year over the 10-year period, per-capita refugee costs for major H.H.S. programs totaled $3,300. Per-person costs for the U.S. population were lower, at $2,500, reflecting a greater participation of refugees in H.H.S. programs, especially during their first four years [in the country].”
An internal email sent among officials in government agencies involved in refugee issues, said:
“Senior leadership is questioning the assumptions used to produce the report.”
“Under the refugee program, the federal government brings tens of thousands of entrants into the United States, on top of existing legal immigration flows, who are instantly eligible for time-limited cash benefits and numerous non-cash federal benefits, including food assistance through SNAP, medical care and education, as well as a host of state and local benefits. Each refugee admitted into the United States comes at the expense of helping a potentially greater number out of country.”
Mark Hetfield, president of the Hebrew immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), one of nine refugee resettlement agencies opposed to cuts in refugee admissions, said:
“We see an administration that’s running a program that it’s intent on destroying. We do have champions in the White House and in the administration, but they’re not being given a voice in this.”
Michael Chertoff, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary under former president George W. Bush, said:
“From a national security standpoint, while we can’t take an unlimited number of refugees, we need to show our friends and allies that we stand with them and this is a shared burden. They’ve generated a lot of economic value. I don’t think refugees are coming to take American jobs.”
According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI):
“Our research at MPI shows that refugees integrate successfully, and that as their years of U.S. residence increase, their public benefits usage declines and income levels rise, approaching parity with the U.S.-born population. In fact, refugee men are more likely to work than U.S-born men, while refugee women work at the same rate as their U.S.-born counterparts.”
It appears as though operating within its own confirmation bias, the Trump administration is suffering from what Dr. King characterized as conscientious stupidity.
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