Resettling Refugees: Who’s Coming to America?

Summary: A vast network of foundations, non-profits, government entities and political organizations have a vested interest in the continued growth of the resettlement of refugees in America. Because they receive billions of dollars in federal grant money, publicly-financed, tax-exempt organizations have significant incentives to support political candidates and parties that will keep these programs alive. These organizations need to be thoroughly audited and the current network of public/private immigrant advocacy and resettlement organizations needs to be completely overhauled. Resettling refugees should be a voluntary, genuinely charitable activity, removing all the perverse incentives government funding creates.

Who is eligible for resettlement?

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), refugees are:

[P]eople who have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

This mirrors the U.N. definition established at the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. It is important to note here, however, that under these definitions, “individuals who have crossed an international border fleeing generalized violence are not considered refugees.” This includes large numbers of people who are regularly resettled anyway, for example some of the Syrians fleeing that country’s conflict, and most—if not all Somalis.

Those who meet the definition include:

refugees (those seeking protection in the United States who are not already in the country),

asylum seekers or asylees (those who apply for asylum after coming to the U.S.),

Cuban/Haitian Entrants,

Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) and

trafficking Victims.

The Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program is also administered by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, although UACs do not meet the definition of “refugee.” Table I below provides up-to-date estimates for each category.

A few particulars are worth mentioning. First, refugee numbers have declined dramatically. In 2018, they reached the lowest numbers since the program began.

Asylum cases have, if anything, increased, and while Unaccompanied Alien Children numbers are down somewhat this year, they still remain historically high. Overall, the whole program is just now reaching pre-Obama levels.

The Cuban/Haitian Entrant program (CHEP), was created by the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980 in response to the Mariel Boat Lift, when 125,000 Cubans and over 40,000 Haitians attempted to immigrate en masse by boat to the U.S. It is a form of humanitarian parole, which allows entry of otherwise inadmissible aliens for humanitarian reasons. CHEP offers benefits to Cubans and Haitians on par with other refugee groups. As part of this, the so-called “wet foot-dry foot” policy provided expedited permanent residence status to Cubans who successfully reached American shores (dry-foot). If intercepted by U.S. authorities at sea, (wet-foot), they would be returned to Cuba. CHEP is managed by Church World Service and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops with funding provided by the Office of Refugee Resettlement and USCIS.

Just a few days prior to leaving office in 2017, President Obama cancelled wet-foot-dry foot. This change was made as part of President Obama’s normalization of relations with Communist Cuba, and the numbers of people fleeing Cuba soared in 2015-2016 in anticipation. There are still Program-eligible Cubans and Haitians, but the numbers down substantially since the end of wet foot-dry foot. As there are no current published numbers for 2017-18, estimates provided are a rough guess. Ending this policy put Cuban and Haitian immigrants on a level playing field with all other refugee groups and ended the incentive for Cubans to risk their lives on a dangerous sea-crossing to America. With the exception of the Vietnamese Boat People (also fleeing a communist regime), few groups other than the Cubans have gone to such extraordinary lengths over so many years to escape an oppressive government.

Asylum is broken down into two categories: affirmative and defensive. Affirmative asylees are those who formally apply for asylum status at our nation’s borders. Defensive asylees are people in deportation proceedings who request asylum status to avoid deportation. Affirmative asylum cases are decided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review decides defensive asylum cases.

Asylum applications have exploded in recent years, as shown in the above chart of affirmative case backlogs. As of March 31, 2018, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ affirmative asylum backlog was 318,624. The EOIR backlog, which includes defensive asylum and other types of deportation cases, was 732,730 as of June 30.

The Special Immigrant Visa program (SIV) awards refugee status to Iraqis and Afghanis who have helped the U.S. military as interpreters and translators during military operations in those countries. Many of these individuals legitimately face the threat of death if they remain in their own countries. In recent years, their numbers have also soared.

Voluntary Agencies

The Voluntary Agencies or VOLAGs are private, tax-exempt organizations that resettle refugees for the U.S. government. There are nine VOLAGs, six of which are nominally religious, and these organizations often promote their resettlement activity as a biblical mission. However, VOLAGs are strictly prohibited by regulation from any form of proselytization to refugees. In reality, they are simply government contractors paid handsomely for their services. The VOLAGs are:

Church World Service (CWS);

Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church (DFMS), also called Episcopal
Migration Ministries;

Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC);

HIAS, Inc, (formerly Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society);

International Rescue Committee (IRC);

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS);

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB);

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI);

World Relief Corporation of the National Association of Evangelicals (WRC).

VOLAGs utilize a network of about 300 subsidiaries called “affiliates” who perform most of the actual resettlement work. This includes providing the following services to refugees for the first 30-90 days of their resettlement in the U.S.:

Decent, safe, sanitary, affordable housing in good repair

Essential furnishings

Food, food allowance

Seasonal clothing

Pocket money

Assistance in applying for public benefits, social security cards, ESL, employment services, non-employment services, Medicaid, Selective Service

Assistance with health screenings and medical care

Assistance with registering children in school

Transportation to job interviews and job training

Home visits

The VOLAGs work the administrative end, distributing federal resettlement dollars and deciding where to relocate the refugees. It is also important to note that refugees get priority for housing. As a result, many Americans go homeless or are otherwise denied public housing for extended periods. In New Hampshire, for example, where refugee resettlement has stressed many communities to the breaking point, the wait time for public housing is eight years.

The two main UAC resettlement contractors are Baptist Child and Family Service (BCFS), and Southwest Key Programs (SW Key), but many others are involved in this lucrative business. More about that later.

VOLAG and UAC contractor leaders do very well by doing good. Table II lists the CEO compensation of the VOLAGS and main UAC contractors, as available. This information is provided on the IRS Form 990 non-profit annual tax return most of them must file. It is important to note that, while substantial, these salaries would not normally be out of line for a corporate CEO. But these are tax-exempt entities that merely administer federal grants. They are little more than glorified clerks. (This post originally appeared HERE)


Resettling Refugees: An International Agenda

Summary: A vast network of foundations, non-profits, government entities and political organizations have a vested interest in the continued growth of the resettlement of refugees in America. Because they receive billions of dollars in federal grant money, publicly-financed, tax-exempt organizations have significant incentives to support political candidates and parties that will keep these programs alive. These organizations need to be thoroughly audited and the current network of public/private immigrant advocacy and resettlement organizations needs to be completely overhauled. Resettling refugees should be a voluntary, genuinely charitable activity, removing all the perverse incentives government funding creates.

The refugee resettlement program is popular with many policymakers. It enjoys bipartisan support in Congress and state houses because it supplies low-wage, low skill labor that many big businesses crave, while enabling supporters to embrace “diversity” and thus avoid the Left’s favorite attacks and mischaracterizations: “bigot,” “racist,” “xenophobe,” “Islamophobe,” etc. This faux-moralizing on the Left stifles a necessary conversation our nation sorely needs. Meanwhile, the Left’s true motive is to import ever more people from third-world nations that are likely to become reliable Democrat voters once they achieve citizenship.

Under the Trump presidency, the United States’ refugee resettlement has been temporarily reduced, but by no means curtailed. A change in administration could resuscitate it overnight. There are many objectionable aspects of this program, not the least of which is finding resources to fund this enormous undertaking. The difficulty associated with assessing the true costs of the programs key to resettling refugees presents another obstacle to policymakers at every level of government.

Program History

The current domestic refugee resettlement program, formally called the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), was created with passage of now-deceased Senator Ted Kennedy’s Refugee Act of 1980.

The bill’s impetus was aided by the massive diaspora of the seagoing Vietnamese “Boat People” happening at the time, however, outlines of a global refugee resettlement agenda were initially framed at the 1976 U.N. Conference on Human Settlements held in Vancouver, Canada—and thus called the Vancouver Plan of Action. While refugee resettlement is perceived as a program to rescue people oppressed in one way or another by their governments (and the refugee definition expresses that sentiment), the U.N. had a larger agenda in mind.

Being entirely socialist in intention and design, the U.N. envisioned redistributing not only wealth, but also populations, across the globe. As stated in the document, “Human settlement policies can be powerful tools for the more equitable distribution of income and opportunities.”

The Plan of Action’s recommendations included:

A.1 National Settlement Policy:

All countries should establish as a matter of urgency a national policy on human settlements, embodying the distribution of population, and related economic and social activities, over the national territory.

A.2 Human Settlements and Development:

A national policy for human settlements and the environment should be an integral part of any national economic and social development policy.

A.4 More Equitable Distribution:

Human settlements policies should aim to improve the condition of human settlements particularly by promoting a more equitable distribution of the benefits of development among regions; and by making such benefits and public services equally accessible to all groups.

The settlement provisions paid lip service to the notion of national sovereignty and property rights, for example, saying in Settlement policies and Strategies Preamble point 3, “The ideologies of States are reflected in their human settlement policies. These being powerful instruments for change, they must not be used to dispossess people from their homes and their land, or to entrench privilege and exploitation.”

However, point 1 in the preamble to the land section makes clear the U.N. body’s utter contempt for property rights. Points 1 and 2 emphasize that land must be controlled by government, (emphases added):

1. Land, because of its unique nature and the crucial role it plays in human settlements, cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice; if unchecked, it may become a major obstacle in the planning and implementation of development schemes. Social justice, urban renewal and development, the provision of decent dwellings, and healthy conditions for the people can only be achieved if land is used in the interests of society as a whole.

2. Instead, the pattern of land use should be determined by the long-term interests of the community, especially since decisions on location of activities and therefore of specific land uses have a long-lasting effect on the pattern and structure of human settlements. Land is also a primary element of the natural and man-made environment and a crucial link in an often-delicate balance. Public control of land use is therefore indispensable to its protection as an asset and the achievement of the long-term objectives of human settlement policies and strategies.

The U.N. justified these measures based on expectations about population growth, various environmental policies, and of course, as stated in point 1 above, “social justice.” These three concerns later morphed into the three “pillars” of the U.N. Agenda 21’s Sustainability concept: environment, economy and social equity. It is merely socialism repackaged, but it explains why the U.N. has now invented yet another oppressed class in need of resettlement: climate refugees. Ironically, while population control remains at the forefront of U.N. policies, the U.N. simultaneously chastises the West for reducing population growth rates to near zero. Because our populations are aging and not being replaced with enough new births, the U.N. now advocates an increase in Western populations with what it calls “Replacement Migration.”

Senator Kennedy’s bill was almost certainly inspired at least in part by this agenda. A decade earlier Kennedy—also the architect of the 1965 Immigration and Nationalities Act, which was urged on Congress by leaders of the California Communist Party—echoed what would become the U.N.’s rationale, saying, “All nations are under obligation to eliminate ignorance, poverty, inequality and injustice.” The bill passed the U.S. Senate with a unanimous vote.

What is the Refugee Resettlement Program?

The refugee resettlement program is administered primarily by three agencies, although more government agencies are involved in supporting refugees once they arrive in the U.S.: the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The State Department’s Reception and Placement Program is managed by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), which oversees nine public and private Resettlement Support Centers (RSC) across the globe. These centers select refugees—usually from a list of those within refugee camps supplied by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). PRM then assigns selected refugees to nine other private contractors called Voluntary Agencies (VOLAGS), who meet weekly to decide where the refugees will be resettled in the United States. The International Office of Migration (IOM), a U.N. agency, coordinates with the RSCs and the VOLAGs to bring refugees to the U.S. VOLAGs are provided State Department seed grants of $2,125 per-head to resettle refugees. VOLAGs are allowed to pocket about 45 percent of this, and use the rest to pay initial resettlement costs.

Both the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) vet refugees. Under President Obama, the vetting process was excessively lax, despite the existential threat of terrorism. But under President Trump’s “extreme vetting,” the refugee flow has been reduced substantially, as more individuals are removed from the pool of possible immigrants.

The Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) provides most funding for state refugee resettlement programs over and above the seed money provided by the State Department’s bureau of Population, Migration, and Refugees. The Office of Refugee Resettlement also offers numerous grants for refugee social services, business startups, and other funding ostensibly to help qualified refugee populations get established in the U.S. (This post originally appeared HERE)


Resettling Refugees: Social and Economic Costs

Summary: A vast network of foundations, non-profits, government entities and political organizations have a vested interest in the continued growth of the resettlement of refugees in America. Because they receive billions of dollars in federal grant money, publicly-financed, tax-exempt organizations have significant incentives to support political candidates and parties that will keep these programs alive. These organizations need to be thoroughly audited and the current network of public/private immigrant advocacy and resettlement organizations needs to be completely overhauled. Resettling refugees should be a voluntary, genuinely charitable activity, removing all the perverse incentives government funding creates.

Federal Refugee Resettlement Grants

The nine VOLAGs, their many affiliates, and unaccompanied alien children contractors all receive funding from the federal government to resettle the various refugee categories. As mentioned earlier, unaccompanied alien children do not meet the definition of “refugee,” however their resettlement is managed through the Office of Refugee Resettlement and they are included when calculating the total cost of the overall program.

Most funding comes in the form of grants. Prime awards are grants directly from the federal government to the state or the contractor. Sub-awards are those given to contractors by other contractors or state governments that received the prime grant. They are left out to avoid double counting. Table III below enumerates prime grants to VOLAGs and unaccompanied alien children contractors for refugee resettlement and related programs. Some of the VOLAGs, for example the Ethiopian Community Development Council, focus almost entirely on refugee resettlement. Others, like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, International Rescue Committee, and World Relief Corporation of the National Association of Evangelicals, have a broader mission.

Of the latter, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is the largest. As Table III shows, in FY 2018 USCCB received $47.7 million for resettlement purposes. However, USCCB participates in other federal grant programs and that year received a total of $363.9 million from the federal government. And 2018 was a slow year. In FY 2017, USCCB received $531.5 million. It administers programs as diverse as Global AIDS, Food For Peace Development Assistance, USAID Foreign Assistance, and even the John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer Program, which provides volunteer technical assistance to farmers in developing countries.

While it has received $742.6 million since FY 2008 for refugee programs, USCCB received a total of $4.1 billion from the federal government for all the various programs it administered during this period.

The International Rescue Committee, which has received $846.6 million for refugee resettlement since 2008, received a total of $1.5 billion from the feds over the same period. World Relief Corporation of the National Association of Evangelicals received $215.3 million for refugee resettlement and $276.2 million for all purposes. For all VOLAGs and unaccompanied alien children (UAC) contractors, the federal government has awarded $8.5 billion in prime grants for the refugee/UAC programs since 2008.

Note that starting in 2014, UAC program grants exceeded those for refugee resettlement. This remains true to the present time. While the Trump administration has successfully reduced the flow of refugees, asylees, and other groups, UAC continue to flood the border. Border crossings did fall to historic lows for the first few months after president Trump took office. But, expectations that Congress would formally adopt the DREAM Act or some other amnesty policy, together with unconstitutional interference from federal courts, has prevented the administration from enforcing border laws. Illegal crossings quickly shot back up to near historic highs by the end of FY 2017 and remain high to the present time.

The funds received by the main UAC contractors dwarf the refugee resettlement income of any of the nine VOLAGs. Three of the VOLAGs, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, also resettle some UACs, but most UAC business is handled by Baptist Child and Family Service, Southwest Key, and those in the “other” column. This last column includes numerous organizations that receive anywhere from a few hundred thousand to millions of dollars per year in prime grants for UAC business.

Finally, note the rows at the bottom of Table III starting with “Gov Grants Latest.” The “% Govt. Funded” line shows each organization’s level of dependence on the government for its operation. It ranges from a low of 22 percent for DFMS to a high of 99 percent for Southwest Key, with an average of 71.4 percent. It must be said that DFMS is the corporate entity for the entire Episcopal Church in the U.S., whereas the other “religious” VOLAGs are organizations distinct and separate from their various churches, focusing wholly on government work, so the numbers aren’t strictly comparable.

All of these contractors are tax-exempt and classified as “nonprofits.” However, they are not unprofitable. The “Net Assets” and “% Annual Revenues” lines tell you how much they have accumulated over the years from their resettlement operations. On average, the organizations listed have accumulated net assets worth 45.1 percent of annual revenues.

DFMS has amassed $322 million in assets, which is over 355 percent of its annual revenues. Again, this is not strictly comparable to the others. If DFMS is removed from the equation, average net assets of the other contractors comprise 30.2 percent of annual revenues across the other VOLAGs. Excluding DFMS, HIAS (formerly Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) has the largest reserves, over 100 percent of annual revenues. Why does a “nonprofit” need to compile such huge assets? The Baptist Child and Family Service on the other hand, has 0.1 percent of its annual revenues saved as net assets.

A Billion-Dollar Taxpayer Funded Advocacy Industry

The Office of Refugee Resettlement offers a multitude of grants for refugees and Unaccompanied Alien Children to thousands of other NGOs in addition to the VOLAGs and their affiliates. It has created a billion-dollar taxpayer-funded advocacy industry that has experienced explosive growth. The chart below shows total ORR grants for refugees and UACs since 2008.

The thousands of organizations are almost all open-borders-oriented for conspicuously self-serving reasons. Naturally, they lean Left. In Massachusetts alone, which brags that one of every six residents and one in five workers is foreign born, there are 130 organizations that comprise the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA).[6] Other states have similar networks based on the size of their refugee/UAC programs and the level of non-profit engagement in the state. Measuring refugee-related expenditures of these various other NGOs is beyond the scope of this article, but Table IV (below) offers a small sample of the many organizations that have taken advantage of ORR grants.

Many organizations not normally associated with immigration issues have also jumped on board. Who could imagine, for example, that YMCA of Greater Houston could take in almost $30 million for refugee resettlement over the last two years? Dearborn, Michigan-based ACCESS (the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services) describes itself as “the largest Arab-American community nonprofit in the United States.” According to its latest tax-exempt IRS filing, ACCESS took in $26.7 million in Fiscal Year 2016, $15.2 million of which was from government grants. According to the chart, funding for refugee resettlement was only a small part of its government-funded activity.

Two refugee VOLAG affiliates, Lutheran Social Services (LSS) and Catholic Charities, receive millions in both prime and sub-grants for refugee resettlement. In many ways, they could be considered VOLAGs in their own right. They also act as prime contractors for the UAC program. UACs have added substantially to their bottom line, with UAC grants alone totaling $245.7 million for the two organizations since 2008.

Additionally, much like its senior partner, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the many Catholic Charities affiliates across the U.S. receive grants from many different federal programs, such as Head Start, Section 8 Housing, homeless veterans’ programs, and others, in addition to refugee and UAC resettlement. In FY 2018 alone, Catholic Charities programs in the U.S. collected a total of $118 million in prime grants and another $1.3 million in Veterans Administration contracts. And even that isn’t the end of it. There is Catholic Community Services, Catholic Social Services, Inc., the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, and others, all of which receive resettlement and/or UAC grants. The Catholic Church does big business with the federal government and throws its weight around to protect its refugee resettlement franchise.

The Immigration and Refugee Service of America (IRSA) has received refugee resettlement grants totaling $102.5 million since 2008, including $17.5 million in 2018. But IRSA is a ghost. IRSA is not listed among 501(c)(3) charitable organizations and does not publish an annual report. Two online reviews of IRSA found in a Google search provide a Washington, D.C., address and phone number, but repeated calls—at all hours—get a busy signal. Two separate IRSA websites are referenced in these reviews,, and Both are defunct placeholder blogs with no reference to IRSA and no current information of any sort. The State Department’s archives list IRSA as a VOLAG, ironically, as of April Fools Day, 2001. However, it is not one of the nine current VOLAGs.

Bloomberg’s review describes IRSA as “a charitable organization that focuses on defense of human rights, builds communities, fosters education, promotes self-sufficiency, and forges partnerships through an array of programs.” Another review was written in 2008 by Melanie Nezer, currently Senior Vice President for Public Affairs at HIAS. Nezer was paid $30,000 in 2013 for a 30-page HIAS pamphlet, the notorious Resettlement at Risk, which advocated partnering with media and the widely discredited Southern Poverty Law Center to investigate and vilify refugee resettlement opponents. Your tax dollars at work.

Nezer was apparently employed by IRSA in 2008 and described it as “the oldest and largest non-sectarian network of organizations serving immigrants, refugees, and other foreign-born people worldwide.” Nezer listed a network of IRSA partner affiliates, most of which still exist. Lavinia Limon, the former director of U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI, one of the nine VOLAGs), is listed by Bloomberg as IRSA’s current director, along with COO Eskinder Negash, who is now director of USCRI. All in the family.

Officer compensation is not listed, but having received over $100 million since 2008, IRSA is paying someone good money. For what? When she directed USCRI, Lavinia Limon collected a hefty six figure salary, $300,114, in 2016. There have been frequent requests to audit the refugee resettlement program, especially the contractors, something that has never been done. What is going on there? Is IRSA some kind of slush fund flying under the radar because no one pays attention to this politically coddled, convoluted, Byzantine network of programs?

Welcoming America, an organization created specifically to advance the “Welcoming” mantra for refugees and immigrants, has received $1.2 million from the federal government since 2012. “Welcoming” is not an innocuous message. It employs a propaganda tactic to shame people into supporting Welcoming America’s open borders agenda. As founder and CEO David Lubell says, the goal is to “…recognize the role everyone must play in furthering the integration of recent immigrants…” (Emphasis added). Many politicians support the refugee program specifically so they can be considered “welcoming,” because “unwelcoming” is code for “racist, bigot, xenophobe, etc.” As a result, politicians often jettison their responsibilities to their electorate to avoid negative publicity. Public officials have been lambasted as “bigots” simply for questioning the program’s cost. An effort to recall a city commissioner in Fargo, North Dakota, for merely posing this question, is just one example. The recall effort failed, but how do responsible government leaders function in such an environment?

The Trump administration zeroed out federal support for Welcoming America, leaving it to rely on its substantial support from private donations. Between 2011 and 2016, Welcoming America received almost $10 million from open borders foundations like Open Society ($450,000), Unbound Philanthropy ($984,450), Kellogg ($200,000), Kaplan, ($595,000), the Einhorn Family Trust ($1.5 million), Carnegie, ($325,000) and others. The Welcoming network includes over 90 cities and 114 organizations, including US Together, the Southern Poverty Law Center, numerous VOLAG affiliates, 10 YMCA branches and even some governmental entities, like the Atlanta Regional Commission and Redwood City 2020.[20]

Jannus, Opening Doors, Refugee Service of Texas (RST), and US Together are simply four more examples of small tax-exempt nonprofits that receive refugee program grants. US Together is an affiliate of HIAS. Opening Doors is a CWS affiliate. The Refugee Service of Texas works as an affiliate of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the Church World Service, and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Jannus works independently.

Together these nonprofits siphon millions of dollars from the federal government, spreading the gospel of immigration as they line their own pockets and perpetuate an agenda that advantages the Left as it dismisses justifiable concerns from communities strained by the needs of these newcomers. Look for more updates on this sprawling government program next month. (This post originally appeared HERE)

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