10 States that Are Resettling the Most Refugees

May 31, 2017

Map of refugee-resettlement

No News Is Not Good News

There has been a lot going on in the world lately, so it’s not easy to remember every story, especially when the speed of reporting and “breaking news” makes last week’s calamity feel like it happened years ago. But just because we’re not hearing much about the refugee crisis right now, for example, doesn’t mean things are getting any better. They’re not.

65.3 million people, according to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, have been forcibly displaced from their homes worldwide, with 21.3 million of them classified as refugees. Six countries have been responsible for settling close to eight million of them.


How the US Has Been Trying to Help

The US took in only 85,000 in 2016, which may not seem like a lot, but it’s the most we’ve accepted since 1999. With resettlement numbers dropping sharply under the Trump Administration, we think now’s the time to celebrate the states that have taken in the majority of those refugees.We strongly believe that our country should be doing everything it can to help some of the most vulnerable people in the world find a safe place to call home.

Here are the ten states that took in the most refugees in 2016. Is your state among them?


10. Illinois

Refugees resettled: 3,125 – Since 1975, Illinois has settled more than 123,644 refugees from more than 60 countries]. Decades of experience in working with refugees means that many nonprofits and other agencies are ready to help.


9. Pennsylvania

Refugees resettled: 3,219 – Lancaster County, most famous for its Amish community, has welcomed more than 400 refugees from all over the world, with most coming from the Congo and Syria. Members of the local community have embraced their new neighbors, helping them get settled and even learning some Arabic to make it easier to help.


8. Washington

Refugees resettled: 3,233 – Since 2010, Washington has accepted about 16,500 refugees from 46 countries. Most have come from Iraq and Myanmar over that time period, but more Ukrainians have been arriving recently. Overall, most refugees tend to settle in or near Seattle.


7. North Carolina

Refugees resettled: 3,342 – Hundreds of Syrian refugees have made their way to North Carolina, and many have found a home in the Raleigh-Durham area, where access to medical care, public education, and already-established Arabic-speaking immigrants (mostly from Iraq) have been a big draw.


6. Arizona

Refugees resettled: 4,110Arizona took in about 800 refugees from Syria in 2016, more than all but three other states. While Gov. Doug Ducey was among those to call for a halt to the refugee resettlement program, volunteers throughout the state are determined to make every new refugee feel welcome.


5. Ohio

Refugees resettled: 4,194 – Arab immigrants first began arriving in Toledo, Ohio, from Beirut and Tripoli back in the late 1800s. Toledo’s “Little Syria” neighborhood has been around since the 1920s. In fact, while the city’s overall population has dropped, its immigration population is on the rise.


4. Michigan

Refugees resettled: 4,258Michigan has long been a home to Middle Eastern immigrants, so it’s not surprising that it has taken in the highest number of Syrian refugees of any state in the US. Michigan’s governor came out against accepting more Syrians, but they continue to arrive, drawn by the strength of the Detroit-area Arab community and the support it offers.


3. New York

Refugees resettled: 5,026 – There are something like 8.5 million people in New York City, the largest city in the US. More than 3 million of those people are foreign-born. That refugees would come to NYC is not a surprise. But what about Utica, population 61,000? Refugees have been settling there for 40 years, and it remains a haven today.


2. Texas

Refugees resettled: 7,803 – While Governor Greg Abbott has tried for years to bar refugees from coming to Texas, they keep coming. And Houston is a big reason why. Ever since it accepted 200,000 South Vietnamese in the 1970s, Houston has been known worldwide as safe destination for refugees. It’s a multiethnic city with generous services and a welcoming population.


1. California

Refugees resettled: 7,909 – From 2011 to 2017, more than 36,000 refugees have settled in California, most from Iraq and Iran. Between 1975 and 2015, that number is 725,000! California, like the rest of the country, thrives on diversity. So, lawmakers there have introduced legislation that would increase school funding for translators and counselors and provide in-state tuition at public colleges.


We believe that California has the right idea. Rather than closing our doors to immigrants and refugees, we should be throwing them open. We thank these states and all the others who have done just that—and we thank groups like the International Rescue Committee for all the work they do. Nothing is more American than welcoming all those who dream of making this country their home.