The Mounting Cost of Afghan Resettlement

As with many immigration-related matters, too much information is purposely hidden from public view.

We just witnessed an excellent example of the Biden administration’s immigration subterfuge. The must-pass continuing resolution bill to fund the federal government at its current level, and therefore avoid a government shutdown, included a completely unrelated $7 billion to help resettle evacuated Afghan nationals, mostly unvetted or, at best, superficially screened. The breakout of how the $7 billion will be spent was kept secret from the public – the very people that provide the money. As former Illinois Sen. Everett Dirksen said, perhaps apocryphally, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon, you’re talking real money.”

Americans know as confirmed fact that the arriving Afghans are unvetted because Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, contradicting his earlier claim, sheepishly admitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had no idea how many evacuees had been vetted. Pressed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Mayorkas confessed: “We are not conducting in-person, full refugee interviews of 100 percent” of Afghan evacuees.” Moreover, Mayorkas couldn’t provide Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) with specific data for how many Afghans went through full interviews. Mayorkas’ testimony exposes White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s deceptive statement assuring that “no one” has entered the U.S. without “a thorough screening and background check process.”

The federal government’s failure to properly protect Americans through the sensible requirement to vet foreign nationals from a country that is an avowed U.S. enemy has already, just weeks after the Afghan evacuation, had serious consequences. In September in New Mexico, the FBI began an investigation into a small group of male Afghans who, temporarily housed at the Doña Ana Complex, allegedly sexually assaulted a female U.S. soldier. Also in September, at Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin, two evacuees were charged, separately, with the alleged sexual assault of a minor using force, and spousal assault by strangulation and suffocation.

The individuals identified in these crimes hardly sound like they belong as part of “Operation Allies Welcome,” most of whom arrived on the six-week long airlift known as “Operation Allies Refuge” that moved 124,000 individuals out of Afghanistan, placing them around the country. Some of their destinations will be in areas that are struggling to recover from the pandemic, and have other long-standing societal woes engrained in their fabric before the evacuees’ arrival.

State Department data for the Afghan Placement and Assistance program obtained by the Associated Pressed showed that California is expected to accept more Afghan evacuees than any state, 5,200. Three months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state’s legislative leaders requested $16.7 million in taxpayer funding to help resettle refugees. Contradictorily, the State Department promised to resettle Afghans in states with affordable housing. Yet California’s officials have for years bemoaned the shortage of that exact commodity. California is also plagued by high average gas prices, $4.68, and above-average state and local taxes at 10.9 percent of adjusted personal income. California’s income inequality level is among the five worst states, and the state’s K-12 public school system struggles with overcrowded classrooms that hamper teachers’ ability to effectively educate their students. For Afghans starting a new life in California, they’ll face many obstacles before they can hope to get on their feet.

For Americans keeping score on the dollar cost of the Afghanistan resettlement, here’s a partial tally. The 20-year war cost $2.3 trillion, with the estimated interest payments on that sum coming in at $925 billion. By 2030, estimated interest costs will ratchet up to $2 trillion, and by 2050, $6.5 trillion. Military equipment worth billions more dollars was abandoned during the hasty and incompetent U.S. retreat from Afghanistan. Those are painfully high sums. But no dollar amount can be attached to the loss of 2,400 American lives, the lives of 3,800 U.S. contractors and the thousands left behind to face an uncertain and possibly deadly future.

Now Americans will be required to finance Afghan evacuees’ U.S. resettlement, the $7 billion in the continuing resolution, plus mounting federal, state and local costs. The Center for Immigration Studies estimated that in their first five years of U.S. residency, each Middle Eastern refugee costs taxpayers $64,370, or 12 times what the U.N. estimates would be the cost to care for one refugee in a country close to his home. Regional resettlement never occurred to the Biden administration. There’s no reason it should when it has U.S. taxpayers to rely on.