The federal government dropped nearly $20 billion taxpayer dollars on refugee resettlement programs in just the last two years, a new watchdog report reveals, with the sum climbing as record numbers of foreign nationals attempt to enter the United States.
The funds went to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which operates under the control of the Department of Health and Human Services’s (HHS) Administration for Children and Families, and claims to provide “social services that help refugees become self-sufficient as quickly as possible after their arrival in the United States.”
ORR received a whopping $8.93 billion in taxpayer funds for fiscal year 2022 before the budget ballooned to $10.93 billion the following year, according to a new report from watchdog group Open the Books. The total sum of $19.85 billion in taxpayer funds were used to facilitate the resettlement of foreign nationals into the United States through a wide range of programs, with some offering housing assistance, school placement support, and assistance with public benefits applications. The President’s budget allocates just over $10 billion to the office in 2024.
The figures mark massive increases from the beginning of Biden’s administration — just $2.6 billion was allocated to the ORR in 2021.
The expenditures from the ORR come as the office has failed to account for unaccompanied children amid an unparalleled surge of illegal aliens at the southern border, with over 10 million foreign nationals have attempting to cross the border into the United States since Joe Biden took office.
There’s been a spike in funding for Refugee and Entrant Assistance Discretionary Grants over the last two years, covering programs that allow eligible individuals to receive financial assistance from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive ORR funding.
While $1.5 billion in these discretionary grants were dispersed from 2013 to 2023, the majority of the grant spending has occurred in the last two years, with price tags of over $400 million in 2022 and $615 million in 2023.
Within the discretionary grant program is the ORR’s Preferred Communities Program, which accounted for over half of the discretionary grant spending in 2022. The program seeks to offer “intensive case management to overcome barriers” to “extremely vulnerable individuals.”
The Preferred Communities Program allocates federal funds to participating NGOs that provide various services for refugees. The ORR states that such services should “increase client’s level of self-sufficiency in one or more of the following domains,” listing “mental health,” “transportation,” “linkages to benefit systems,” and “immigration status,” as areas in which NGOs can provide support with government money.
“Potential migrants from an ever-broader range of countries are trying to enter the country by any means necessary,” Open the Books Founder & CEO Adam Andrzejewski explained before adding that the ORR’s grantmaking incentivizes mass migration into the United States. “The news traveling back home is: come to America. Entry is easy and the benefits are aplenty once you’ve arrived. The grantmaking in particular is a powerful magnet for more people to keep flooding our borders; who would turn down not just a free lunch but a leg up on a new life?”
“This is creating an endless flow of people seeking help with anything from travel to health care to loans,” Andrzejewski said. “By extending so many benefits we are creating an endless spiral of spending – and the pain can be felt everywhere from hospitals, to schools to shelters across the country.”
Former HHS Director of the Office of Civil Rights Roger Severino contended in a recent report that “HHS and ORR have forgotten their original refugee-resettlement mission and instead have provided a panoply of free programs that incentivize people to come to the United States illegally.”
Two of the non-governmental organizations that have historically received the most funding from ORR are also the previous employers of the ORR’s current director.
The current director of ORR, Robin Dunn Marcos, is a 23-year veteran of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), an organization that receives grants from ORR. During her time at the IRC, Dunn Marcos worked as the Senior Director for Resettlement, Asylum, and Integration Programming as well as the Executive Director of the organization’s Phoenix, Arizona branch.
Dunn Marcos also worked as the Regional Representative for sub-Saharan Africa for the Church World Service (CWS), another recipient of grants from ORR.
In 2023, IRC received more than $66 million in government grants for the Preferred Communities program, while CWS received over $64 million, both figures marking a significant increase over 2022. Meanwhile, IRC received over $180 million while CWS was awarded $125 million total from 2013 to 2023 in Refugee and Entrant Assistance Discretionary Grants.
A spokesperson for the ORR addressed the grants to Dunn Marcos’ previous employers, stating “Consistent with the Ethics Pledge, Robin Dunn Marcos is recused from participating in particular matters involving specific parties in which IRC is or represents a party. That recusal obligation lasts for two years from her date of appointment, which was September 11, 2022.”
While nearly $20 billion in taxpayer funds were granted to the ORR, the office has been unable to reach up to 85,000 unaccompanied children that it has placed with sponsors in recent years. Many unaccompanied children have ended up working in factories and food processing plants in violation of child labor laws, an investigative report from The New York Times found.
Meanwhile, the ORR budget has spiked as the number of foreign nationals attempting to enter the U.S. has hit new highs. November 2023 set a new record for southern border encounters, with nearly a quarter million foreign nationals attempting to enter the United States.
Border security and mass illegal immigration are set to become key issues of the presidential election, with multiple public opinion polls finding that over 60% of respondents do not approve of President Biden’s handling of the border.