In 1980, the United States Congress created the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program (FRRP)to provide for the effective resettlement of refugees and to assist them to achieve economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible after arrival in the United States. The Senate author was Senator Edward Kennedy, and it unanimously passed the Senate. The act was signed into law by President Carter and became effective on April 1, 1980. That first year (1980) 207,000 refugees entered the country. According to the Pew Research Center, most of the refugees initially came from Eastern Europe, Middle East and Cuba. Since 2002, the most refugees have come from Burma (177,700), Iraq (144,400) and Somalia (104,100). In 2019, D.R. Congo accounted for nearly 13,000 refugees followed by Burma (Myanmar), Ukraine, Eritrea, and Afghanistan. Last year, Texas took 2,500 refugees, the most of any state. 

There were many concerns in 1980 the FRRP would allow enemies of the U.S. to infiltrate the country. Proponents of FRRP assured the pubic each refugee would be fully ‘vetted’ before being admitted. Vetting has proven to be difficult because often the countries from which the refugee is fleeing is either uncooperative or does not maintain sound records.

A May 2018 poll conducted by Pew Research found that about half of Americans (51%) believed the U.S. had a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, while 43% said it does not. Of those approving, three-quarters were Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Only 26% of those who identified as Republican or leaning Republican thought FRRP was good policy.

President Trump has set a maximum of 18,000 refugees in fiscal year 2020, down from a cap of 30,000 in 2019. This is the lowest number of refugees resettled by the U.S. in a single year since 1980, when Congress created the FRRP. Trump has steadily reduced the number of refugees allowed into the US since he took office.

The FRRP uses nine non-governmental organizations that are paid to help refugees resettle in the United States. These religious or community-based organizations are referred to as voluntary agencies (volags). The volags (using taxpayer dollars) provide each refugee housing, food, and clothing and English lessons. They help them enroll for federal, state and local welfare programs and refer them to social service providers. The estimated cost for refugee resettlement totaled $976 million in 2019 and is projected to be $892 million in 2020. Each of the 30,000 resettled refugees in 2019 cost American taxpayers an estimated $32,533. Many of the volag leaders have been calling on President Trump to increase the refugee resettlement ceiling to 75,000 for 2019, because Trump’s refugee policy has cost them money.

On Sept. 26, President Trump signed an executive order that allows for states, cities, and counties to ‘opt out’ of allowing refugees be re-settled in their area. Governor Greg Abbott of Texas became the first governor to ‘opt out,’ stating Texas had enough refugees and illegals to take care of now. On Wednesday, a federal judge in Maryland suspended the policy because he said the EO would likely be found to be illegal. The issue will likely be settled by the Supreme Court after the impeachment trial. Four thoughts:

First, a federal judge should not have more authority than the president or a governor. Second, the FRRP was conceived, implemented and sustained by liberals. Third, there is no reliable, dependable ‘vetting’ process for refugees fleeing third world countries. Fourth, FRRP is big business for the volags and Trump’s policy is hurting business.

Opposing FRRP is not popular because people see opposition as being cold hearted and callous, but American taxpayers do more than their fair share of charitable work around the world. It’s time to take care of those in need in our country. 

Steve Fair is chairman of the 4th district of the Oklahoma Republican Party. He can be reached by phone at (580) 252-6284 or by email at

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