Obama Administration Nearly Doubles Number of Refugee Arrivals So Far in FY 2017

The_Twin_Cities Somali Refugees AP PhotoJim Mone
AP Photo/Jim Mone

The Obama administration has accepted 25,584 refugees into the United States in the two months and 26 days since FY 2017 began on October 1, according to the Department of State interactive website. That number is nearly double the 13,791 refugees accepted during the comparable period between October 1, 2015 and December 26, 2015 of the prior fiscal year (FY 2016).

It is also more than the previous high for the Obama administration during his eight years in office, which occurred in FY 2013 when 18,228 refugees were accepted between October 1, 2012 and December 26, 2012.

The Obama administration appears to be rushing as many refugees as possible into the country before President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President on January 20, 2017. On the campaign trail, Trump promised to pause the resettlement of refugees who come from Syria or other countries that have a history of hostility to the United States.

During FY 2016, 85,000 refugees were resettled in the United States. The Obama administration has asked Congress for budget authority to resettle 110,000 refugees in the country during FY 2017. Congress, however, has not authorized that level of spending under the interim budget for FY 2017 that will continue into March 2017. Authorized spending simply continues at the 85,000 annualized refugee levels.

If the current level of refugee resettlement continues for the remaining nine months of FY 2017, more than 100,000 refugees will be resettled, even though how the resettlement agencies would fund the additional 15,000 refugees who are not in the interim budget remains unknown.

If Trump follows through on his campaign promise, however, the number of refugees resettled in FY 2016 is likely to fall below 85,000.

The Obama administration continues to accelerate the resettlement of refugees from countries that the new administration is likely to place on the “pause” list: Syria and Somalia.

Since October 1, 3,542 refugees have been resettled in the United States from Syria, an annualized rate of more than 14,000, an increase from the 12,500 resettled in FY 2016.

During that same time period, 3,474 refugees have been resettled from Somalia, an annualized rate of slightly less than 14,000, which is a significant increase from the 9,020 resettled in FY 2016.

The Obama administration has continued to place the greatest number of Syrian refugees in Michigan, a politically tone deaf act given the role opposition to refugee resettlement played in President-elect Trump’s upset victory there in November.

Three hundred and eighty-nine Syrian refugees have been resettled in Michigan since October 1, more than in any other state in the country.

California hosts the second highest number of recent Syrian refugees during that period, with 372.

Rounding out the top five destination states for recent Syrian refugees are Pennsylvania (261), Texas (245), and Florida (202).

Both Pennsylvania and Florida were swing states that voted for Trump in November.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently wrote a letter to the Obama administration withdrawing the Lone Star State from the federal refugee resettlement program, potentially setting the stage for a Tenth Amendment lawsuit to end the program there, similar to the one Tennessee will soon file.

Despite public concern over recent incidents of violence committed by Somali refugees (Dahir Adan’s September attack on ten at a Minnesota mall and Abdul Razak Ali Artan’s November attack on eleven on the campus of Ohio State), the Obama administration has accelerated the settlement of Somali refugees in the country since October 1.

Of the 3,474 Somali refugees resettled in the country since October 1, 433 were resettled in Minnesota, the state where Dahir Adan resided, which is already home to the largest Somali community in the United States, which is estimated to total 70,000.

Rounding out the top five states to receive Somali refugees since October 1 are New York (343), Ohio (248), Kentucky (239), and Arizona (225).


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