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States that have accepted the most refugees in the past decade

  • States that have accepted the most refugees in the past decade

    For centuries, immigrants and refugees have seen the United States as a land of opportunity where talented and hard-working people can succeed and assimilate, and where a safe haven can offer respite from strife elsewhere in the world. Yet refugee policies differ significantly from state to state, with larger, coastal states like California and New York having the infrastructure, education, and social climates required to more easily support incoming refugees.

    From 2010 to 2019, the United States has accepted a total of 577,787 refugees from countries all over the world. However, refugee acceptance has dropped significantly since President Donald Trump took office in 2017. Between 2010 and 2016, the United States was taking in an average of 70,000 people a year. That number has dropped to about 32,000 refugees a year since 2017, and the rate of refugee acceptance in 2019 is the lowest it's been in 10 years, with only 18,769 people granted refugee status in the country and receiving federal aid.

    Using June 2019 data from the Refugee Processing Center Admissions and Arrivals, Stacker looked at the number of refugees each state has accepted in the past decade. This gallery uses the Refugee Processing Center's data set, organized by federal fiscal years, to rank all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, by the total number of refugees each state has taken in since 2010.

    By “taking in,” Stacker is referring to state-sponsored resettlement, defined by the United Nations as a process in which governments select and allow the “most vulnerable refugees” into their nations. Resettlement is a long and complicated process, including receiving legal refugee status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, applying for a referral to the U.S., and becoming matched with an American resettlement organization, which places refugees (usually in family groups) and provides them with aid.

    Click through the slides to find out how your state ranks on this list and the national origins of admitted refugees.

    You may also like: Successful U.S. companies started by immigrants

  • #52. Wyoming

    - Total refugees admitted from 2010 to 2019: 1 (0.1 per year)
    - Refugees admitted to date for 2019 fiscal year: 0
    - Top countries of origin for admitted refugees: Somalia (1)
    - Top cities where admitted refugees settle: Cheyenne (1)

    As of 2018, Wyoming is the only state in the union without a refugee resettlement program. This means that refugees in the state aren't able to get federal benefits—something many of them rely on for at least a short period when faced with the challenge of creating an entirely new life. The lack of organizations and aid in the state accounts for the fact that Wyoming has only admitted a single refugee over the past decade.

  • #51. Puerto Rico

    - Total refugees admitted from 2010 to 2019: 10 (1 per year)
    - Refugees admitted to date for 2019 fiscal year: 0
    - Top countries of origin for admitted refugees: Cuba (10)
    - Top cities where admitted refugees settle: Trujillo Alto (4), Guaynabo (3), San Juan (2)

    Historically, Puerto Rico, an American territory, hasn't taken many refugees, but that could all change soon. As the island's population has taken a steep decline over recent years, thanks to low birth rates and out-migration, experts are suggesting that Puerto Rico could be the perfect solution for many Spanish-speaking refugees and immigrants looking to start life anew in the mainland United States.

  • #50. Hawaii

    - Total refugees admitted from 2010 to 2019: 20 (2 per year)
    - Refugees admitted to date for 2019 fiscal year: 0
    - Top countries of origin for admitted refugees: Burma (14), Iraq (4), China (1)
    - Top cities where admitted refugees settle: Honolulu (11), Mililani (6), Lihue (2)

    According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, in 2017, Hawaii only received $75,000 of federal aid to put toward social services for refugees—one of the lowest amounts given to any state. Combined with the fact that Hawaii only has one resettlement center, the Pacific Gateway Center, it's not surprising that the Aloha State has only welcomed an average of two refugees a year over the last decade.

  • #49. Mississippi

    - Total refugees admitted from 2010 to 2019: 77 (7.7 per year)
    - Refugees admitted to date for 2019 fiscal year: 9
    - Top countries of origin for admitted refugees: Eritrea (25), Afghanistan (14), Burma (14)
    - Top cities where admitted refugees settle: Jackson (67), Carthage (3), Madison (3)

    Mississippi is not a particularly welcoming state for refugees and asylum seekers. In 2015, at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, The Clarion-Ledger reported that Phil Bryant, the state's governor, had announced that he would do “everything humanly possible to stop any plans from the Obama Administration to put Syrian refugees in Mississippi.” While he hasn't taken the same stance on refugees from other countries, Mississippi remains one of the least open states, accepting only 77 refugees over the past nine years.

  • #48. Delaware

    - Total refugees admitted from 2010 to 2019: 78 (7.8 per year)
    - Refugees admitted to date for 2019 fiscal year: 4
    - Top countries of origin for admitted refugees: Burma (27), Democratic Republic of the Congo (17), Eritrea (8)
    - Top cities where admitted refugees settle: Wilmington (49), Georgetown (22), Bear (3)

    In 2018 a bill was introduced to the House during Delaware's 149th General Assembly. The bill would require the Department of Social Services to notify the governor and the secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security of the existence of any refugee resettled in the state who had previously lived in a country on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. While the bill was stricken in the House, its existence prompted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to add the state to their list of states who promoted “anti-refugee legislation,” and brought about bad press.

  • #47. District of Columbia

    - Total refugees admitted from 2010 to 2019: 131 (13.1 per year)
    - Refugees admitted to date for 2019 fiscal year: 5
    - Top countries of origin for admitted refugees: Iraq (52), Eritrea (35), Ethiopia (9)
    - Top cities where admitted refugees settle: Washington, D.C.

    As a part of their “What's With Washington” series, American University in Washington D.C. revealed that the Ethiopian community in the area was the largest outside of Africa, and that in the 1980s and 1990s more refugees came to the city from that country than any other. Over the last 10 years, however, the largest number of refugees in the Washington D.C. area have come from Iraq, fleeing the same invasive wars and totalitarian governments that Ethiopians fled from decades ago.

  • #46. West Virginia

    - Total refugees admitted from 2010 to 2019: 166 (16.6 per year)
    - Refugees admitted to date for 2019 fiscal year: 2
    - Top countries of origin for admitted refugees: Iraq (57), Burma (49), Eritrea (42)
    - Top cities where admitted refugees settle: Moorefield (90), Morgantown (22), Charleston (20)

    In February 2019 a bill was introduced to the House in West Virginia that would ban sanctuary cities in the state and would give local governments the power to ban refugees in some instances. The House Bill 2664 has yet to be put to the vote, and if it passes the bill could significantly limit the number of refugees accepted by the Mountain State, particularly those who come from Muslim countries like Iraq and Burma (officially called Myanmar).

  • #45. Arkansas

    - Total refugees admitted from 2010 to 2019: 233 (23.3 per year)
    - Refugees admitted to date for 2019 fiscal year: 33
    - Top countries of origin for admitted refugees: Democratic Republic of the Congo (91), Burma (43), Iraq (42)
    - Top cities where admitted refugees settle: Fayetteville (146), Clarksville (23), Little Rock (15)

    Arkansas has only one official refugee resettlement agency, Canopy Northwest Arkansas. The organization has been authorized to resettle 35 individuals each year, all of which must be family reconnects (aka refugees who are reconnecting with family already living in Arkansas). As of June 2019, the agency is well on their way to meeting their allotted goal for the 2019 fiscal year.

  • #44. Montana

    - Total refugees admitted from 2010 to 2019: 298 (29.8 per year)
    - Refugees admitted to date for 2019 fiscal year: 63
    - Top countries of origin for admitted refugees: Democratic Republic of the Congo (172), Eritrea (89), Iraq (17)
    - Top cities where admitted refugees settle: Missoula (297), Helena (1)

    A 2018 report by the New American Economy and the International Rescue Committee found that the immigrant and refugee community in Missoula, Mont., was critical to both the economy and the workforce, with a total spending power of $93 million after taxes. Only a year prior, in 2017, a group of women had convinced the International Rescue Committee to establish a refugee resettlement organization in the same town. Supporters are hopeful that the study's findings will encourage lawmakers to open the state's borders to more refugees and will inspire the development of more refugee resettlement organizations.

  • #43. Alaska

    - Total refugees admitted from 2010 to 2019: 955 (95.5 per year)
    - Refugees admitted to date for 2019 fiscal year: 35
    - Top countries of origin for admitted refugees: Somalia (278), Ukraine (116), Sudan (112)
    - Top cities where admitted refugees settle: Anchorage (831), Wasilla (91), Delta Junction (18)

    In 2017, Anchorage, the leading city in Alaska for newly settled refugees, began working on new policies that would allow for easier integration of said refugees and immigrants. In particular, the city worked to re-shape the Mountain View neighborhood, which had suffered from disinvestment, high unemployment, and transient tenancy. Fresh International Gardens, an urban farm that employs only refugees, earned $13,000 in 2017. With the success of the new program, the city will probably continue to invest more money into their refugee resettlement programs and attract an increasingly large number of new asylum seekers.

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