New Refugees Resettled in the U.S. in 2016

As the ongoing civil war in Syria drove steady growth in the global refugee population, the number of new refugees admitted to the United States increased significantly in calendar year 2016, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Refugee Processing Center. However, the new presidential administration’s two attempts to temporarily block refugee resettlement in the U.S. as well as a shift in sentiment toward refugees among some segments of the U.S. population have many advocates and agencies who work with refugees ringing alarm bells.[1] These actions have consequences for the refugee community. The receptiveness of host communities toward refugees is an important factor related to their reintegration into society and their ability to cope with the trauma that they have experienced, as SocialWork@Simmons Professor Hugo Kamya noted last year in a discussion on the mental health needs of new arrivals.[2]

As lawmakers, advocates, and the general public debate how best to address refugees, it is important to first and foremost recognize who these people are and where they are coming from. Political rhetoric and commentary are peppered with skewed opinions and misinformation that often feed into myths about this diverse population. Instead of developing policy based on emotion and fear, let’s first review 2016’s numbers to help contextualize how the global refugee crisis is affecting the United States.

Although the Syrian crisis has continued to contribute the largest number of refugees to the global refugee population, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is home to the largest number of refugees resettled in the U.S. in calendar year 2016. Syria comes in second, followed by Myanmar, Iraq, and Somalia. The top 10 home countries of new arrivals in the U.S. were home to more than 90 percent of all refugees resettled in the U.S. in 2016.

Home Countries of New Refugees in U.S. in 2016

96,784 new refugees arrived from more than 80 different countries. 90% of new refugees in the U.S. were from 10 countries.

Home Countries of New Refugees in U.S. in 2016

Country of OriginTotal
Dem Rep. of Congo19,829
Syria15,479
Myanmar11,572
Iraq11,332
Somalia10,786
Bhutan5,974
Iran4,152
Ukraine3,642
Afghanistan2,930
Eritrea2,011
Sudan1,479
Ethiopia1,322
Burundi777
El Salvador757
Pakistan604
Central African Republic555
Molodova550
Russia527
Colombia476
Cuba351
Republic of South Sudan221
Belarus187
Rwanda150
Honduras140
Sri Lanka84
Kazahkstan82
Palestine71
Uganda71
Ivory Coast65
Armenia64
Vietnam57
China56
Kyrgyzstan54
Uzbekistan46
Azerbaijan39
Nepal33
Egypt27
Senegal27
Yemen27
Guatemala24
North Korea19
Liberia19
Cameroon18
Cambodia17
Congo16
Togo14
Georgia11
Zimbabwe11
Latvia8
Chad7
Laos7
Nigeria7
Jordan6
Kenya6
Kuwait6
Gambia5
Guinea5
India5
Sierra Leone5
Libya4
Mali4
Angola3
Bangladesh3
Malaysia3
Mongolia3
Thailand3
Belgium2
Croatia2
Djibouti2
Gabon2
Morocco2
Norway2
Philippines2
Serbia2
Sweden2
Tajikistan2
Tunisia2
Burkina Faso1
Indonesia1
Jamaica1
Tanzania1
Tibet1
UAE1
Zambia1
Total96,874

Although the Syrian crisis has continued to contribute the largest number of refugees to the global refugee population, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is home to the largest number of refugees resettled in the U.S. in calendar year 2016. Syria comes in second, followed by Myanmar, Iraq, and Somalia. The top 10 home countries of new arrivals in the U.S. were home to more than 90 percent of all refugees resettled in the U.S. in 2016.

Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. in 2016

In calendar year 2016, 49 out of 50 states resettled 96,874 refugees. 55% of new refugees in the U.S., or 53,064, resettled in just 10 states.

Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. in 2016

StateTotal
Texas8,930
California8,921
New York5,830
Michigan5,039
Ohio4,857
Arizona4,829
Washington3,837
North Carolina3,711
Pennsylvania3,617
Illinois3,493
Georgia3,473
Florida3,272
Minnesota3,009
Kentucky2,847
Missouri2,337
Tennessee2,145
Indiana2,100
Maryland1,952
Colorado1,910
Wisconsin1,877
Massachusetts1,827
Nebraska1,782
Virginia1,678
Oregon1,566
Utah1,319
Idaho1,232
Iowa1,087
Kansas1,053
Nevada899
Connecticut897
Maine714
New Hampshire619
New Jersey601
North Dakota560
Oklahoma468
South Dakota460
New Mexico411
Rhode Island400
South Carolina399
Vermont397
Louisiana162
Alabama120
Alaska112
Montana46
West Virginia32
Arkansas22
Mississippi13
District of Columbia8
Hawaii3
Wyoming1
Delaware0
Total96,874

Still, new arrivals in 2016 came from a diverse spread of countries from every region in the world. Refugees arrived from 80 different countries, resettling in 49 states in the U.S. as well as the District of Columbia. Texas, California, and New York resettled the largest numbers of refugees in the U.S. respectively, while Delaware was the only state in calendar year 2016 that did not take in new refugee arrivals. In fact, more than half of all refugees resettled in the U.S. were resettled in just 10 states.

Home Countries of New Refugees in Massachusetts

In 2016, new refugees from Massachusetts arrived from more than 30 different countries. The following 10 countries contributed the largest numbers of refugees.

Home Countries of New Refugees in Massachusetts

CountryTotal
Iraq324
Dem. Rep. of Congo317
Bhutan264
Somalia227
Syria195
Ukraine113
Eritrea56
El Salvador37
Moldova34
Afghanistan33

Massachusetts ranked 21st among all states and the District of Columbia in terms of most refugees resettled in calendar year 2016. More than 1,800 refugees were resettled throughout the state from more than 30 different countries. The top home countries of new refugees in Massachusetts included Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Bhutan.  

Majority Refugee Populations by State

The resettlement of specific refugee populations varies from state to state. This list highlights the home countries of the majority of new refugees resettled in each state in 2016.

Majority Refugee Populations by State

StateCountry
AlabamaDRC
AlaskaSomalia
ArizonaDRC
ArkansasIraq
CaliforniaIran
ColoradoMyanmar
ConnecticutSyria
DelawareN/A
District of ColumbiaAfghanistan
FloridaSyria
GeorgiaDRC
HawaiiMyanmar
IdahoDRC
IllinoisSyria
IndianaMyanmar
IowaDRC
KansasDRC
KentuckyDRC
LouisianaSyria
MaineSomalia
MarylandSyria
MassachusettsIraq
MichiganSyria
MinnesotaSomalia
MississippiAfghanistan/Eritrea
MissouriDRC
MontanaDRC
NebraskaIraq
NevadaDRC
New HampshireDRC
New JerseySyria
New MexicoDRC
New YorkDRC
North CarolinaDRC
North DakotaBhutan
OhioBhutan
OklahomaMyanmar
OregonUkraine
PennsylvaniaSyria
Rhode IslandSyria
South CarolinaDRC
South DakotaBhutan
TennesseeDRC
TexasDRC
UtahDRC
VermontBhutan
VirginiaIraq
WashingtonUkraine
West VirginiaIraq
WisconsinMyanmar
WyomingSomalia

Refugees from various home countries are not spread evenly across the United States. For example, states in the Pacific Northwest including Washington and Oregon resettled a majority Ukrainian refugee population, while the majority of refugees resettled in the North Dakota and South Dakota were from Bhutan. Overall, nine different countries contributed a majority of a refugee population in at least one state.

Religious Affiliations of New Refugees in the U.S. in 2016

New refugees admitted to the U.S. in 2016 were affiliated with a wide variety of religions.

Religious Affiliations of New Refugees in the U.S. in 2016

ReligionTotal
Islam44,794
Christianity42,914
Buddhism3,063
Hinduism2,073
Judaism239
Additional Religions3275
No Religion/Unknown516

Religious Affiliations of New Refugees in the U.S. in 2016

ReligionTotal
Ahmadiyya398
Animist156
Atheist64
Baha’i679
Baptist2,788
Buddhist3,063
Cao Dai4
Catholic5,164
Chaldean100
Christian17,028
Coptic4
Evangelical Christian454
Greek Orthodox3
Hindu2,073
Jehovah’s Witness809
Jewish239
Kaka’i54
Kirat990
Lutheran28
Mennonite5
Methodist1,341
Muslim16,707
Muslim Ismaili23
Muslim Shiite5,374
Muslim Sunni22,292
No Religion512
Orthodox1,602
Other177
Pentecostalist7,070
Protestant3,436
Sabeans-Mandean363
Seventh Day Adventist2,870
Ukrainian Orthodox4
Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox6
Uniate202
Unknown4
Yazidi567
Zoroastrian221

In addition to being geographically diverse, refugees in the U.S. are culturally diverse. New arrivals in the U.S. in calendar year 2016 affiliated with more than 30 different religions. Between 2008 and 2016, the most frequent native languages of new refugees have included Arabic, followed by Nepali, Somali, Sgaw Karen, and Spanish.[3] However, many refugees make significant strides toward integration over time. A report from the Center for American Progress found that the majority of refugees studied who had been in the U.S. for 10 years were at least proficient in English, while the majority who had been in the U.S. more than 20 years became naturalized citizens.[4]

Data helps to explain part of the story of refugee resettlement in 2016. But understanding the journey that many refugees have gone through is equally, if not more important.

“People need to be informed about who these folks are and where they are coming from. These new arrivals are not simply economic migrants, but people escaping horrible situations and seeking safety,” Kamya said. “This will take a fair amount of willingness for people to put themselves in refugees’ situations, which can be difficult for many in the Western world to grasp.”[5]

Read Professor Kamya’s full commentary in our previous piece, “The Coming Tide: Addressing the Mental Health Needs of New Refugees.”

Source for all tables:

Refugee Processing Center, from calendar year 1/1/2016 to 1/1/2017.

[1] Eviatar, D. “The New Travel Ban Is Still a Muslim Ban,” The Atlantic, March 7, 2017. Accessed March 31, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/03/trump-muslim-executive-order-syria-yemen-refugee-bannon-breitbart/518808/

[2] “The Coming Tide: Addressing the Mental Health Needs of New Refugees,” SocialWork@Simmons, July 22, 2016. Accessed March 15, 2016. https://socialwork.simmons.edu/blog/addressing-mental-health-needs-refugees/

[3] “Top 10 Languages Spoken by Arrived Refugees,” Refugee Processing Center, December 31, 2016. Accessed March 15, 2016. http://www.wrapsnet.org/admissions-and-arrivals/

[4] Kallick, D. & Mathema, S. “Refugee Integration in the United States,” Center for American Progress, June 2016. Accessed March 15, 2016. https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/15112912/refugeeintegration.pdf

[5] “The Coming Tide,” 2016.

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