Christians Outnumber Muslims in U.S. Refugee Admissions Under Trump

Patrick Goodenough | July 31, 2017 | 11:18pm EDT
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Christian refugees from Syria and Iraq, in Jordan. (Photo: Maria Lozano/Aid to the Church in Need)

( – The first six months-plus of the Trump administration have brought a discernible shift in the religious affiliation breakdown of refugees admitted into the United States, with a larger proportion of Christians to Muslims among those resettled.

Most of those who have arrived since President Trump’s inauguration would have begun the application process long before – it can take 18-24 months – but the change is nonetheless striking: More than half of those admitted under Trump (51.2 percent) are Christians, compared to 43.3 percent of those who arrived during the same period one year earlier under President Obama.

(Data: State Department Refugee Processing Center/Graph:

At the same time, the proportion of Muslims among the refugees admitted during those two time periods dropped, from 46.7 percent under Obama to 37.6 percent under Trump.

The trend is evident over the successive months of the Trump administration: In February, Trump’s first full month in office, the Christian-Muslim ratio was 41 percent to 50 percent. By April the balance had changed, with 54 percent Christians to 35 percent Muslims. In July, the margin of difference was even larger – 62 percent Christians compared to 34 percent Muslims.

Over the decade prior to FY 2016, the U.S. each year resettled more Christian than Muslim refugees from around the world, but that changed last year when Obama admitted a slightly larger number of Muslims. Of the 84,994 refugees admitted in FY 2016, 37,875 (44.5 percent) were Christians and 38,900 (45.7 percent) were Muslims.

(Data: State Department Refugee Processing Center/Graph:

This year, a total of 20,357 refugees have been admitted between January 21 – Trump’s first full day in office – and the end of July. Of those, 10,426 (51.2 percent) identified themselves as Christians, 7,662 (37.6 percent) as Muslims, 774 (3.8 percent) as Buddhists and 562 (2.7 percent) as Hindus.

Another 933 (4.6 percent) of admitted refugees were from smaller faith groups (including Yezidi, Baha’i, Jewish and Zoroastrian) as well as those who indicated religious affiliation as “none.”

By comparison, the Obama administration admitted more than twice as many refugees over the identical period one year earlier (Jan. 21, 2016—Jul. 31, 2016) – a total of 42,880 according to State Department Refugee Processing Center data.

Of those, 20,034 (46.7 percent) identified themselves as Muslims, 18,571 (43.3 percent) as Christians, 1,647 (3.8 percent) as Buddhists and 1,031 (2.4 percent) as Hindus. Another 1,597 (3.7 percent) were from smaller religious groups, or professed no religion.

Denominational breakdown of Christians included “Christian,” Baptist, Catholic, Chaldean, Evangelical, Greek Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witness, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox, Pentecostalist, Protestant, Sabean-Mandean, Seventh Day Adventist, Ukraine Orthodox, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox Kyivan Patriarchate, and Uniate.

Sectarian breakdown of Muslims according to the data included “Moslem,” Sunni, Shi’ite, Ahmadi (133, all from Pakistan, whose constitution does not recognize Ahmadis as Muslims and whose penal code criminalizes Ahmadi worship), and “Ismaici” (4, from Afghanistan – apparently refers to Ismailis, a branch of Shi’a Islam.)

(Data: State Department Refugee Processing Center/Graph:

The countries accounting for the largest Christian groups among refugees admitted under the Trump administration include Burma (1,353 Christians), the DRC (among them 726 Christians, 751 Pentecostalists, 524 Seventh Day Adventists and 509 Catholics), Ukraine (including 1,072 Pentecostalists and 520 Baptists), Eritrea (610 Orthodox) and Iran (442 Christians).

Large Muslim groups included 1,963 Somalis who identified themselves simply as Muslim, 1,725 Sunnis from Syria, 792 Sunnis and 513 Shi’ites from Iraq, and 702 Muslims from Burma.

Of the 20,357 refugee arrivals during the Trump administration, 18,808 (92.4 percent) originated from just 12 countries.

The largest contingents came from the Democratic Republic of Congo (3,485), Burma (2,554), Somalia (2,093) and Iraq (2,017), while other sizeable groups came from Ukraine (1,860), Syria (1,843), Bhutan (1,394) and Eritrea (1,168).

(Data: State Department Refugee Processing Center/Graph:

Ceiling exceeded

Trump’s travel ban executive orders restricted refugee admission numbers to a 50,000 ceiling in FY 2017, compared to the 84,994 admitted by the Obama administration in FY 2016.

With two months of the fiscal year to go, as of July 31 the Trump administration has admitted 50,479 refugees since Oct. 1, 2016.

The ceiling has been exceeded because the Supreme Court, in allowing the travel ban to take partial effect, ruled that the administration will not be able to exclude a refugee applicant purely on the basis of the executive order’s ceiling having been reached, if that applicant has a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

July brought the lowest number of monthly admissions in several years – 1,224, compared to 2,852 in June, 3,989 in May and 3,316 in April

The largest contingents among the July arrivals were Ukraine (257), DRC (250), Somalia (214), Burma (84), Syria (64), Sudan (61) and Iraq (59).

The religious breakdown of the refugees who arrived in July is: 764 Christians (62.4 percent), 412 Muslims (33.6 percent), and 48 others/unaffiliated (3.9 percent).

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