In the face of record-high migrant encounters, the U.S. government has allocated a staggering $20 billion over the past two fiscal years to support refugee and entrant assistance programs. A recent Open the Books investigation led by Adam Andrzejewski delved into the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to shed light on the funding utilized to provide essential services to migrants.
According to the findings, the expenditure on refugee and entrant assistance skyrocketed from $8.925 billion in fiscal year 2022 to $10.928 billion in fiscal year 2023. The Administration of Children and Families, the parent agency of ORR, received $2.94 billion for Afghan Supplemental Appropriation and additional supplementary funding in fiscal year 2022. Ukrainian refugees also incurred a significant cost to taxpayers, amounting to $900 million in fiscal year 2022 and $1.775 billion in fiscal year 2023.
In its Congressional Budget Justification, the ORR proposed expanding services to a broader range of applicants. This included granting immigrant minors in the unaccompanied minor program access to the same benefits as refugees, such as Medicaid and foster care services. The agency also advocated for increased funding for legal assistance to ensure permanent residency for Ukrainian and Afghan children and cash assistance for full-time college or technical school students. Additionally, the ORR sought to swiftly eliminate the requirement for refugees to attain economic self-sufficiency.
During this period, the ORR allocated $1.5 billion in discretionary grants, with a significant portion of spending occurring in the past two years. Grant spending surged from $33 million to over $400 million in 2021 and 2022, rising to an astonishing $615.6 million in 2023.
Among the various programs under the Refugee and Entrant Assistance category, the “Preferred Communities Program” emerged as the highest expenditure in 2022, amounting to $275.9 million. This figure climbed even higher in 2023, reaching $436 million, with funding distributed among seven organizations.
In September 2022, Robin Dunn Marcos assumed the position of ORR director, with a base annual salary of $180,000. Before this role, she had an eight-year tenure at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), where she ultimately held the title of senior director for resettlement, asylum, and integration. Preceding her time at IRC, Marcos dedicated 15 years to the IRC’s Phoenix branch and spent four years at Church World Service.
The investigation also revealed that IRC and Church World Service were among the largest grant recipients from ORR. IRC received over $180 million between 2013 and 2023, while Church World Service received nearly $125 million. Notably, IRC experienced a substantial increase in funding from ORR, with spending rising from $22 million in FY 2021 to over $235 million in FY 2023.