Refugees in the U.S. (1980-2013)

Since 1974, the United States has opened its doors to more than 3 million refugees from all over the world. 

This Silk uses refugee admission data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to trace the trend of refugee arrivals to the U.S. from 1980 to 2013.

The total number of refugee arrivals to the U.S. has been decreasing since 1980. Refugee emergencies were at their highest in the 1980s, when over 200,000 refugees arrived in the U.S. In subsequent years, refugee arrivals decreased for a myriad of reasons. For example, the official refugee ceiling was lower in the 2000s compared to that in the 1980s. The refugee ceiling only increased to 80,000 refugees under the Bush administration in 2008 in order to mitigate the refugee crisis in Bhutan, Iran, and Iraq. Additionally, following 9/11 refugee arrivals substantially decreased due to an increase in security measures.  

The above conclusion is solidified by the findings of Daniel C. Martin and James E. Yankay in the Annual Flow Report of the DHS: 

"The annual number of refugee arrivals declined during the 1990s reflecting a shift in the refugee program’s focus to more diverse populations in dispersed areas. Admissions decreased further, reaching a low point in 2002, due largely to changes in security procedures and admission requirements after September 11, 2001. The number of refugee arrivals subsequently increased and reached a post-2001 peak in 2009. Since 2009, refugee admissions have decreased for two consecutive years." 

Between 2004-2013, people from over 60 countries sought refuge in the United States. 

The majority of refugees were from Burma, Iraq, or Somalia. 

Number of refugee arrivals to the U.S., by country of nationality. (2004-2013)

The majority of refugees that arrive to the U.S. come from Asia, while few people from South America seek refuge in the U.S. 

Total number of refugee arrivals to the U.S., by region of nationality. (2004-2013)

Data released by the Department of Homeland Security shows that in the year 2013, a majority of refugees settled in Texas, followed by California, Michigan, and New York. Additionally, most of these refugees were nationals of Burma, Iraq, Bhutan, Somalia, or Cuba.

Top-5 states for refugee arrivals. (2013)
Top-5 countries with refugees in the U.S. (2004-2013)  
Top-5 countries with the highest refugee population, graphed by number of refugees and share of population. (2010)

A report by the Migration Policy Institute reveals that in the 1960s, the United States had the largest refugee population in the world. The same report, however, reveals that the although the United States still hosts a large number of refugees, as of 2010 Jordan and Syria have the highest refugee populations in the world––relative to the share of the countries' population. Today, three out of the top-5 countries with the highest refugee are in the Middle East, signaling the role that the political conflicts in the region have in exacerbating the refugee crisis. 

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Refugee arrivals, by country of nationality.