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Muslims Constitute Largest Share of Refugees to U.S., Nearly Half So Far This Year

Nearly half of the more than 63,000 refugees admitted to the U.S. this fiscal year are Muslim, representing the largest share of refugees resettled on American soil in that timeframe, according to government data analyzed by the Pew Research Center.

Since October 2015 (the first month of FY 2016), 28,957 Muslim refugees have been admitted to the U.S. or 46 percent of the refugee flow into the country so far this fiscal year, Pew’s analysis of the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center data reveals.

While Muslim refugees have constituted the largest percentage of newly admitted refuges, Christian refugees are the second-most admitted. So far this fiscal year 27,556 Christian refugees have been resettled in the U.S. or 44 percent of refugee admissions.

According to Pew, the last time Muslim refugee admissions outpaced admissions of Christian refugees was in FY 2006, amid an influx of Somali refugees. Regardless, over the past four years the number of Muslim refugees admitted to the U.S. has exceeded 25,000 annually, more than any year since at least 2002.

The remaining 10 percent of refugees admitted to the U.S. since October, or 6,552 refugees, represent different religious groups, including about 2,500 Buddhists and some 1,500 Hindus. About one percent or 338 refugees are atheist or do not claim a religious affiliation.

Unlike other types of immigrants, refugees are granted special privileges and protections upon admission to the U.S., including immediate access to welfare benefits, like food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and public housing. Middle Eastern refugees, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), are particularly heavy users of public assistance with 90 percent receiving food stamps and about 70 percent on cash and government healthcare in FY 2013.

Pew reports that many of the Muslim refugee admissions are from Syria (8,511), Somalia (7,234), and Iraq (6,071) with others coming from Burma (2,554), Afghanistan (1,948), and “other countries” (2,639).

The Obama Administration — despite concerns that terrorist might infiltrate the refugee flow from Syria — have set a goal to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the fiscal year and are on pace to do so. Of the Syrian admissions fewer than one percent are Christian refugees; the rest are Muslim.

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