Refugee resettlement costs is difficult to gather, report says database xe

People tend not to like those words in the U.S. Unfortunately, it’s the best answer to the question many people are asking right now: what is the impact of refugees resettling in st. Cloud?

A report released this month by the legislative auditor determined what kind of data was available, how comprehensive that data was and what it could tell us. Researchers also determined what data we don’t have, because it doesn’t exist, said joel alter, director of special reviews.

"If you’re going to try to estimate cost you really have to start with some indication of you know, who’s out there, that either is currently or once was a refugee," alter said.Primary refugees

Researchers worked with state agencies and public officials. They also obtained refugee-specific documents and data from the state departments of human services and health.


To asses what local data exists and doesn’t exist, alter focused on areas where more primary refugees have been settled: ramsey, hennepin and stearns counties, the cities of st. Cloud, minneapolis, st. Paul and rochester, and the school districts serving st. Cloud, minneapolis and st. Paul.

Researchers also reviewed U.S. Laws, regulations and practices related to refugee resettlement and looked at national data on refugees. They also reviewed international agreements, which help shape refugee resettlement worldwide.Primary refugees

While the census does ask about country of origin, it does not ask about immigration status. So refugees are likely among the immigrant number, but do not make up all of the immigrants counted.

Further complicating things, per U.S. Law, refugees can keep that status only for up to a year and then must apply for permanent residency, such as a green card.

"But you also quickly come to understand that there are some pretty significant limitations to that," he said. "Aside from human services agencies, most public agencies just don’t have a particular reason to ask the people that they serve what their immigration status is."

Another significant data gap is the public education system.Alter said many child refugees or children of refugees are attending minnesota schools. But schools don’t collect information on immigration status.

That’s evident in some things the data does show. Between 2011 and 2016, nearly half of primary refugees who arrived in minnesota were age 18 or younger.

Many people in human services agencies say asking about immigration status may keep people who are eligible for their programs from getting the help they need.

"There certainly is a fear out there that asking about immigration status could have a chilling affect on their ability to serve," alter said. "Some agencies are there to serve whoever comes through the door."

Primary refugees

It’s also guided by state law. The minnesota government data practices act says public agencies should only collect "necessary" information on individuals. Necessary means any information the agency needs to administer or manage the service it is providing.

For people receiving certain employment-related services, the minnesota department of employment and economic development, or DEED, does ask about country of origin and whether they are immigrants. But individuals are not required to report the information, nor does the data make a distinction between immigrants and refugees.

The department of public safety maintains large databases related to driver and vehicle services and criminal history arrests and convictions.Immigration status neither database has information on the refugee status of individuals.

The minnesota housing finance agency doesn’t collect refugee status either. Other public agencies, such as local libraries and parks departments, don’t maintain data on the cost of services provided to the public.

One population difficult to track is refugees initially settled in other states who later move to minnesota. These are called secondary refugees. As legal residents, they have the same right as any resident to move as they wish.

In one area, there are very precise numbers. From 2011 to 2016, more than 14,000 refugees were placed in minnesota. In 2015, minnesota received 2,393 refugees.Primary refugees

The minnesota of department of human services operates the state’s resettlement programs office. It is fully funded by federal revenues. In 2017, total expenses were just over $7 million.

Most of the expenses cover grants to counties or community-based organizations that provide services for refugees. In central minnesota, lutheran social service of minnesota is the resettlement agency.

People in support of various causes hold signs and flags monday, nov. 6, during the st. Cloud city council meeting at city hall. (photo: dave schwarz, dschwarz@stcloudtimes.Com)

Local resettlement agencies receive $2,125 from the federal government for each refugee they help resettle.Alter said this must help the refugee secure housing, apply for social security, register in school and seek public services as needed.

Cash assistance is only available to refugees actively seeking employment and who aren’t eligible for other programs, which means single individuals and childless couples. An individual receives $360 per month and couples receive $547 per month, for up to eight months. That totals $2,880 for individuals, and $4,376 for couples.

The medical assistance program provides health care coverage for up to eight months for people ineligible for medicaid. In minnesota, nearly all refugees qualify for state medical coverage.

Alter spent a day in st.Alter said cloud talking to mayor dave kleis, stearns county employees and officials, local law enforcement and willie jett, superintendent of st. Cloud schools.

"I certainly heard from the public officials in the city and in the county that they don’t perceive any great fiscal impact from the influx of refugees in the st. Cloud area," alter said.

“I certainly heard from the public officials in the city and in the county that they don’t perceive any great fiscal impact from the influx of refugees in the st. Cloud area.” joel alter, minnesota office of the legislative auditor

There have been some costs with serving higher numbers of refugee and immigrant populations at the county level, officials said. Many of the state programs the county administers come with state or federal dollars to offset county costs.Primary refugees

Very few county tax dollars are used to support refugee resettlement in st. Cloud. The services they do provide are required by law and in the public interest.

Because they have had little or interrupted formal education, refugees also often lack skills needed to perform successfully in formal, american education settings.

In st. Cloud schools, more than 1 in 4 students needs at least some english-language help. Together with students unfamiliar with formal education, that’s 1 in 3 students who need help beyond normal classroom instruction.

"But what it means is there’s been some shifting of the cost. They’ve had to borrow or use money meant for more general purposes," alter said.Immigration status

“our estimates show that over a 20-year period, refugees pay [an average of] $21,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits.” national bureau of economic research report

Alter advises people to look closely at the source of any data. For instance, one legislator gave him a copy of a document they were given by a constituent, which claimed refugees receive a certain amount of money upon arrival. It could quickly be disregarded, he said, because it was referring to refugees in canada, not the U.S.

As for collecting more data, there is not an easy answer. A new law would likely be required to mandate collection. "There’s not a quick fix to this," alter said.Alter said

There could be more limited assessments of fiscal impacts, such as focusing only on primary refugees. But it’s unclear how representative or useful the analysis would be.

The report was focused on impacts to state and local governments, expenses and revenues. That doesn’t include the economic impact refugees have an area. For instance, refugees are potential employees and consumers.

A report by the national bureau of economic research looked at data of more than 19,000 adults who were likely refugees. It found that when they first arrive, refugees do extract high costs because of the direct costs of relocation and high use of welfare. But those costs decrease quickly, researchers said.Primary refugees

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