Officials within the Trump administration recently rejected a draft report by the Department of Health and Human Services that found that refugees resettled in the US contributed an estimated $63 billion more in federal, state, and local taxes in the last decade than they received in public benefits, The New York Times reported on Monday.
The White House has been mired in internal debates over the amount of refugees to allow into the US during the next fiscal year.
The draft report, according to the Times, undercut a key argument made by immigration hardliners within the administration that refugees are a drain on the US economy.
The Times reported last week that Trump is debating whether to reduce the cap on the amount of refugees admitted to the US in the next fiscal year to a figure below 50,000 – the lowest amount in decades. Trump must decide by October 1 how many to allow in.
Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser and one of the most staunchly anti-immigrant officials remaining in the White House, reportedly pushed for a cap as low as 15,000, while Homeland Security officials recommended a limit of 40,000.
When presented with the draft report, a number of administration officials who work on refugee-related issues were sent an internal email, the Times said, that read “senior leadership is questioning the assumptions used to produce the report,” and another that said Miller had requested a meeting to discuss the report.
Two people familiar with the talks told the Times that Miller personally intervened in discussions over the refugee cap to ensure that only the costs of refugees, and not their contributions, were taken into consideration.
The White House publicly pushed back on the draft report’s conclusions on Monday, telling the Times that a final version of the report disproved the notion that refugees had a net positive impact because it found that the per-capita cost of a refugee is higher than that of an American.
The agency submitted a three-page report dated September 5 that compared the costs of refugees to Americans, determining that per-capita refugee costs on average totaled $3,300 per year, whereas per-person costs for Americans totaled $2,500, the Times reported.
The final report did not mention any tax revenues generated by refugees.
“This leak was delivered by someone with an ideological agenda, not someone looking at hard data,” White House spokesman Raj Shah told the Times, referring to the draft report. “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 US economy.”
External studies in recent years have found that refugees do, indeed, produce a net positive impact on the countries they resettle in.
For instance, a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research released over the summer found that the average adult refugee in their first 20 years in the US contributes more through taxes than he or she received through public benefits or relocation costs.