The Origins Of Refugees in the US

A refugee is someone who is outside of their home, is fleeing war, harm or persecution and is looking for safety.
A refugee is someone who is outside of their home, is fleeing war, harm or persecution and is looking for safety.

The United States is known for being quite generous about admitting refugees to its shores. Aside from the present question of refugees from Syria, which has seen opposition in parts of the country, the United States does have an overall history of refugee acceptance. When you compare the US with other developed countries, you will find that the US has been willing to take in more people than all the other 22 developed countries combined if you look historically over the previous two decades.

Jewish and Vietnamese Refugees to America

The US does not simply give refugee status to anyone that is poor, tired or from a disturbed region of the world. It is up to the President and the US Congress to set a quota for refugees for each country. Taking a historical perspective over 20 years, the country that sent most refugees to the US was the former Soviet Union. Jews from the USSR had been seeking refugee status to the US through an open policy that America maintained towards the Jewish population over the 1980s and 1990s, it is not surprising to learn that about 380 thousand Jews from the Soviet Union have entered the US as refugees. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, the US also admitted a large number of refugees from Vietnam. Indeed, even well after the end of the Vietnam War, the United States continued a policy of accepting refugees from Vietnam well into the 1990s.

Recent Changes in Refugees to the US

The US only admits people as refugees to its country if the applicant has a real humanitarian concern for the US and who meets the definition of a refugee. The total number of people who were given refuge or asylum in the US went down from approximately 30 thousand in 2012 to about 25 thousand in 2013. The countries from which the most refugees arrived to the US in this year were China with 27%, Egypt with 20% and Syria with 5%. These three countries accounted for about 52% of all refugees being accepted into the US in 2013, and 69% of those admitted to the United States were between the ages of 18 and 44 years old.

Overall, it can be said the US has accepted a large number of refugees over its history, regardless of recent changes in 2013 and those even more recently with regards to Syrian refugees in 2014 and 2015. Although questions associated with accepting refugees, such as what measures are involved in screening those applying for entry into the US and maintaining the internal security of the country, have created worries about accepting refugees into America today, the fact remains that this country has historically been a bastion for several groups of people even in recent years, such as Vietnamese citizens after the Vietnam War and Jewish citizens from the former Soviet Union. The way in which the US decides to address requests for refugee status in the present day will ultimately remain to be seen.

The Origins Of Refugees in the US

RankCountry of OriginNumber of Refugees to the United States
1Former Soviet Union380,000
3Former Yugoslavia169,000

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