US on Track for Another Year of Low Refugee Arrivals

VOA NEWS – Victoria Macchi

FILE – A man who only gave his first name as Ariel, of Honduras, receives an image of Saint Jude from a woman before crossing into the United States to begin his asylum case after being returned to Mexico, March 19, 2019, in Tijuana, Mexico.

Midway through the fiscal year, the United States is on track to resettle one of the lowest numbers of refugees in the program’s history.

From the beginning of October until the end of March, 12,151 refugees came to the U.S. primarily from three countries: Democratic Republic of Congo (48 percent), Burma (17 percent), and Ukraine (13 percent), according to U.S. State Department statistics.

Last fall, President Donald Trump set the FY 2019 refugee ceiling at 30,000 — the smallest number in nearly four decades, since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980.

At the current rate of arrivals — about 2,025 a month — the country will fall short of this year’s cap, though it may slightly surpass last year’s arrivals.

A VOA analysis of arrival data also shows the U.S. continues to accept an increasingly larger share of Christian refugees (81 percent) this fiscal year, compared to historical trends before President Donald Trump took office. During the same six-month period, about 15 percent of arriving refugees were Muslim.

The State Department data, which is updated daily and includes demographic information like gender and religion, indicates the gap between religions is widening.

A VOA report in June 2018 showed that the top three countries of origin for arriving refugees were the same as now (DRC, Ukraine and Burma) and that nearly 68 percent of arriving refugees were Christian.

That number has climbed throughout Trump’s nearly two and a half years in office.In January 2018, VOA documented arriving refugees, which under the presidencies of G.W. Bush and Barack Obama were about half Christian and one-third Muslim, were skewing increasingly more Christian.

That level continues to increase, with Christians accounting for four of every five refugees coming to the U.S. this fiscal year.

The reduction in refugee arrivals to the U.S. means more refugees who are deemed in need of resettlement — meaning it is unsafe for them in their home country or remain in their country of asylum — are not able to relocate. It has also led to layoffs in the refugee resettlement community. Over the weekend, one of the main resettlement agencies, World Relief, announced it was closing its office in Akron, Ohio.

«As the U.S. government decreases the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. and has also signaled an intent to reduce the longstanding public/private partnership with refugee resettlement agencies, World Relief unfortunately needs to reduce its footprint nationally,» the agency said in a news release Friday.