WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the preliminary injunction that blocks key elements of President Trump’s executive order banning travel from Muslim-majority countries and placing a moratorium on refugees entering the United States. The State Department also recently announced that it will raise its quota on refugee arrivals into the U.S. from around 900 to 1,500 per week. Where are the top destinations for refugees in the U.S. and which states resettle the most?
According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. admitted just fewer than 85,000 refugees in the fiscal year 2016, the highest number since 1999. More than half of the refugees admitted to the U.S. in fiscal 2016 resettled in just 10 states: California, Texas, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, North Carolina, Washington, Pennsylvania and Illinois. The top three destinations for refugees in the U.S. — California, Texas and New York — accounted for 24 percent of the total number of refugees resettled.
Volunteer agencies, like the International Rescue Committee, work with the International Organization for Migration and the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement to place refugees across the various states. In contrast to the states listed above, there are some that take very few refugees. In fiscal 2016, two states — Arkansas and Wyoming — and the District of Columbia resettled fewer than 10 refugees. Delaware and Hawaii took in zero.
On a per capita basis, the top destinations for refugees in the U.S. look a little different. Taking its population size into account, Nebraska is actually leading the pack. Nebraska resettled refugees at a rate of 76 per 100,000 residents in fiscal 2016, compared to the national average of 26 per 100,000. The top five per capita states also include North Dakota, Idaho, Vermont and Arizona, all of which took in more than twice as many refugees per capita than the national average in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016.
In terms of national origin, nearly half of refugees in FY 2016 were from only three countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (16,370), Syria (12,587) and Myanmar (12,347). According to a Pew Research Center analysis of global refugee data, it is estimated that nearly 60 percent of Syrians — 12.5 million people — are displaced from their homes. Considering the sheer number of Syrian refugees, the 12,587 resettled in the U.S. does seem like a modest figure, but this was more than 20 percent above the 10,000 target set for FY 2016.
The nearly 85,000 refugees resettled in the U.S. in FY 2016 pales in comparison to the around one million new migrants accepted in Germany in 2015. In fact, Germany took more refugees in 2015 than the total number of refugees the U.S. has resettled in the last decade. According to UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, an unparalleled 65.3 million people around the world have been displaced from their homes. Of these, 21.3 million are refugees and more than half are children.
The Obama administration set a goal of resettling 110,000 refugees in FY 2017. With less than five months remaining in the year, U.S. refugee aid organizations have voiced concerns about whether they can resettle even 70,000 refugees.
– Michael Farquharson