Refugee Admissions Dropped 70% in Trump's First Year

By Patrick Goodenough | February 2, 2018 | 4:22am EST
Makeshift shelters and new tents in a section for new arrivals at Dadaab in northeast Kenya, where a complex of four camps provides shelter to more than 230,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and elsewhere in the region. (Photo: UNHCR/E. Hockstein)

( – The number of refugees admitted to the United States during President Donald Trump’s first full year in office was down 70 percent from President Barack Obama’s last full year in office, according to the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center database.

In Obama’s last full year, the United States admitted 98,898 refugees. In Trump’s first full year, the United States admitted only 29,620—a decline of 69,278.

The decline in the pace of refugee admissions is accelerating: A total of 6,708 refugees were admitted to the United States during the first four months of fiscal year 2018, a 79.3 percent drop from the 32,448 refugees resettled in the U.S. during the same period one year earlier.

Between Oct. 1, 2017 and Jan. 31, 2018, the Trump State Department admitted 6,708 refugees from 43 countries, with the largest contingents coming from Bhutan (1,792), Democratic Republic of Congo (1,422), Burma (794) and Ukraine (779).

During the same period one year earlier, the Obama State Department resettled a total of 32,448 refugees from 67 countries, with the biggest groups originating from DRC (5,833), Syria (4,884), Iraq (4,841) and Somalia (4,034)

For three of the first four months of FY 2018, monthly refugee admissions numbers have remained below the 2,000 mark – 1,385 in January, 1,858 in November and 1,248 in October. In December 2,217 refugees were resettled.

The first four months of FY 2017, by contrast, saw 9,945, 8,355, 7,371 and 6,777 admissions respectively. (President Obama was in office during that period, with the exception of the last 11 days.)

(Graph: / Data: State Department RPC)

According to the Refugee Processing Center database, the first full year of the Trump administration saw a total of 29,620 refugees admitted to the U.S., fewer than one-third of the 98,898 refugees who arrived during the last full year of the Obama administration.

The figures apply to the period Jan. 21, 2017 – President Trump’s first full day in office – to Jan. 21 2018 (366 days); and to the period Jan. 21, 2016-Jan. 20, 2017 (also 366 days, since 2016 was a leap year).

While that decrease in number (from 98,898 refugees to 29,620, a drop of 70 percent) is a sizable one, there were also some similarities in the countries of origin of the largest contingents of refugees arriving during Obama’s last year and those arriving during Trump’s first year.

(Graph: / Data: State Department RPC)

The DRC accounted for the largest single group of refugees under both administrations – 19,674 under Obama (or 19.9 percent of the total admissions for the year in question) and 5,189 under Trump (17.5 percent of the total admissions.)

Other top ten countries of origin of refugees common to both time periods include Burma (11,260 under Obama, 3,633 under Trump); Bhutan (5,989 under Obama, 3,623 under Trump); and Ukraine (3,812 under Obama, 3,013 under Trump.)

On the other hand, differences between the two periods of time are particular evident in the admission numbers from Syria, Iraq, Iran and Somalia – four of 11 countries of terrorism concern targeted by Trump in one of several travel-related executive orders last year.

During Obama’s last year, admissions from Syria accounted for the second largest group of refugees (after the DRC) – 16,395 in total. In Trump’s first year, Syria dropped down to seventh place on the list of top countries of origin, with 1,972 admissions.

Similarly, Iraq was in third place in Obama’s last year (11,940 refugees) but in sixth place in Trump’s first year (2,308 refugees).

Iran was placed seventh under Obama (4,412 refugees) and in ninth place under Trump (1,124 refugees).

Somalia was placed fifth both in Obama’s last year and Trump’s first, accounting for 10,811 refugees under Obama, and 2,454 under Trump.

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