US POLITICS

The Actual Number Of Refugees The U.S. Takes Is Still Low

Given the prevailing rhetoric, one might think there are masses of Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the U.S. There aren't

Nov 23, 2015 at 6:59 PM ET

As political hysteria over Syrian refugees grows, prompting the passage of the SAFE Act last Thursday, the real statistics of America’s successful refugee integration process are being lost in the noise. A report from the Migration Policy Institute last month revealed that since September 11, 2001, only three of the 784,000 refugees resettled in the United States have been arrested for planning terrorist activities, and two of those were for attacks outside the U.S. And all this despite the fact that almost 20,000 refugees arrived in the U.S. in 2014 from another country partly controlled by ISIS—Iraq.

According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, 19,651 people (over a quarter of the 70,000 refugees who arrived in the U.S.) came from Iraq in 2014, making up the largest refugee population by nationality in 20 states. While the number may sound large without context, it means the total number of Iraqi refugees that came to the U.S. last year would only fill Fenway Park half way.

The SAFE act (which President Obama stated he intends to veto) bars refugees from Iraq and Syria—the two countries most directly threatened by ISIS—from entering the country without individual approval from the heads of Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and National Intelligence.

In addition to the bill, anti-refugee sentiment has reached new heights as Donald Trump called for a database to keep track of Syrian refugees, and a limit to the number of those accepted. Only 132 Syrian immigrants entered the U.S. last year.