Washington Week

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Refugees in America: By the Numbers

By Joan E. Greve

President Donald Trump sent shockwaves throughout the country and around the world Friday, when he signed an executive order banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days and halting admissions of refugees for 120 days. Protests erupted at airports and in cities across America, but Trump stood by the order as a means of “keeping our country safe.”

As the debate around the immigration order rages on, here is a look at the numbers behind America’s refugee population.


How many refugees are admitted to the United States each year?

America accepted 84,995 refugees into the country during the fiscal year that ended in September. This figure represents a sharp incline from 2002, when fewer than 27,000 refugees were admitted following the September 11 attacks, but it is still less than the average 112,000 refugees who were accepted each year between 1990 and 1995.


Which countries are most represented among the refugee population in America?

The Democratic Republic of the Congo contributed the highest number of refugees last year at 16,370. Syria was second, with 12,587 refugees from the war-torn nation entering the U.S., followed by Burma, Iraq and Somalia

What percentage of refugees are Muslim?

During 2016, Muslims outnumbered Christians among refugees for the first time in ten years. According to the Pew Research Center, 46 percent of 2016 refugees identified as Muslim, while a comparable 44 percent identified as Christian.


Which U.S. states take the most refugees?

California took in the most refugees last year at 7,909, but Texas came in a close second with 7,803. On the other end of the spectrum, Delaware and Hawaii accepted no refugees in 2016.


Which countries host the most refugees?

According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Turkey has been home to the highest number of refugees for the past two years. 2.5 million refugees now live within Turkey’s borders, over a million more than Pakistan, the second-leading host country.


How many Americans think the country has a responsibility to take refugees from countries like Syria?

A majority of Americans do not think that the country has a responsibility to accept refugees from Syria. As of October, only 41 percent of registered voters said that the U.S. should feel an obligation to take in Syrian refugees.

Photo via flickr / European Commission DG ECHO