New York Times
By Haeyoun Park
October 21, 2015
The United States has accepted only a small fraction of the four million refugees who have fled Syria. But they are settling in new places, and more are on the way.
Where Syrian refugees were placed, 2012-15 Since the Syrian conflict began four years ago, just 1,854 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the United States.
The refugees who have arrived from Syria since 2012 have been placed in 130 towns and cities. They are among the most vulnerable people in the war: single mothers and their children; religious minorities; victims of violence or torture.
Some of them have reached large cities like Houston, but most have been sent to more affordable, medium-size cities by the nine voluntary agencies that handle refugee resettlement. Boise, Idaho, has accepted more refugees than San Francisco and Los Angeles combined; Worcester, Mass., has taken in more than Boston.
President Obama has said the United States will accept five times as many Syrian refugees this year as the total admitted over the last four years.
Under pressure from Europe and other countries confronting the global migration crisis, Mr. Obama has raised the number of Syrian refugees who will be offered legal status to at least 10,000 this fiscal year.
Some cities and towns have resisted. In Duncan, S.C., residents and elected officials argue that the federal government cannot possibly screen out terrorists, and some say that more Muslim immigrants would threaten American culture.
But the United States has admitted only small numbers of Syrian refugees compared with other countries.
Syrian refugees admitted by the United States, 2012 to Sept. 2015
Syrian refugees admitted by Germany, 2012 to Sept. 2015
Syrians still account for a small share of all refugees in the United States.
Syrians made up about 2 percent of the 70,000 refugees admitted during the last fiscal year. The three largest refugee groups were from Myanmar, Iraq and Somalia.
The United States has also admitted far larger numbers in the past. In 1979, it provided sanctuary to 111,000 Vietnamese refugees, and in 1980, it added another 207,000. Around the same time, the country took in more than 120,000 Cuban refugees during the Mariel boatlift, including around 80,000 in one month alone.
Top 15 countries of origin for refugees admitted in fiscal year 2015
Dem. Rep. of Congo
Syrians are arriving by the hundreds, not the hundreds of thousands.
The State Department said that the United States started to admit more Syrian refugees in the last year after the United Nations began submitting more referrals from refugee camps: 500 to 1,000 a month.
Refugees trying to reach the United States must apply through the United Nations, and before being accepted, they are screened by the F.B.I. and through databases run by the Defense Department and other federal agencies.
The additional 10,000 Syrian refugees this year would come from 18,000 referrals already submitted by the United Nations. State Department officials said that more than half of them were children.
President Obama said the U.S. would take in at least 10,000 displaced Syrians in fiscal year 2016.
To ease integration, Syrian refugees are placed in communities where there are other Syrian immigrants.
More than 140,000 Syrians already live in the United States, according to census figures, and refugees who have relatives in the country are likely to be resettled with or near them. Those who do not have family in the United States are placed where jobs are more plentiful and the cost of housing is low.
Refugees receive help finding work and housing, but they are expected to become self-sufficient within a year. The agencies in charge of resettlement take into account how earlier waves of refugees often assist new arrivals with the moving process, with food and with explanations about the United States.
“It’s like taking someone from a very small, dark room to a very, very big world,” said Hussam Al Roustom, who arrived in Jersey City in June after fleeing Syria for Jordan. “This is why I want to help others go through what I have gone through.”
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