Traditionally, the United States takes in more refugees than all other countries combined. The U.S. has accepted more than 3 million refugees since 1975. This includes almost a million since 2003 alone. But new administration policies aim to curb the number of refugees the U.S. resettles. The number of refugees resettled in the U.S. has fallen sharply in recent years.
After accepting a record 108,197 refugees in 2016, the U.S. has resettled less than 30,000 refugees each year since – a ceiling set by the current administration. The U.S. has accepted only 12,151 refugees halfway through the 2019 fiscal year. If this trend continues the U.S. will accept the fewest refugees since 2004.
What is a refugee?
A refugee is a person forced to leave their home country. They have either faced past persecution or have a “well-founded fear” they will face persecution the future. The persecution must relate to race, religion, nationality, affiliation with a social group or political opinion, according to the U.S. State department.
The State Department fully implemented Presidential Proclamation 9645 on December 8, 2017, after facing several court battles. It places limits on entry into the U.S. for foreign nationals from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Somalia, Venezuela and Yemen. It also restricts refugee entry for people without visas or other valid travel documents.
The U.S. lifted the ban on Chad in 2018.
This has drastically altered the demographics of the refugees resettling in the U.S.
By the numbers
In 2016, the highest number of refugees came from Syria, a country plagued by a drawn-out civil war. Somalia, also a war-torn country, had more than 10,000 refugees come to the U.S. in 2016.
In fiscal year 2018, neither of these countries cracked the top 10 countries with the most refugees because of the travel restrictions. In 2018 the most refugees came Democratic Republic of the Congo – a total of 7,878.
Many of the countries facing travel restrictions from the presidential proclamation have a large Muslim majority. This changes the religious demographics of refuges as well. While 22,900 Muslim refugees came to the U.S. in 2017, only 1,800 arrived in 2018. Sixty-three percent of 2018 refugees were Christian, while just 17 percent were Muslim. For comparison, in 2017 47 percent were Christian and 43 percent were Muslim.