Minnesota Can Add More Refugees in 2017

Somalis living in the Dadaab camp in Kenya gather to watch the arrival of the United Nations high commissioner for refugees last May. Getty Images

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota will be allowed to accept 2,505 refugees in 2017 according to the US State Department.  The government caps the yearly maximum number of refugees at 110,000 for the United States.  That is an increase of 25,000 from fiscal 2016 (beginning Oct. 1, 2015) which was capped at 85,000.

The St. Cloud Times reports Minnesota has taken in 39,501 refugees since 2003, from a number of countries.  Somalia represents the largest number of refugees with 40 percent (15,633) of Minnesota’s accepted refugees coming from that country.  

US-map-Somali refugees
The refugees are screened prior to being accepted, and attempts are made to settle them into areas where they have friends and family already in the area.  According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, more than 90 percent of the refugees arriving in Minnesota had ties to the state. Minnesota also took in refugees already accepted into the US but who come from other states.

Resources of local resettlement agencies are also a determining factor in the number of refugees a state will be allocated.  The agencies (  Catholic Charities, International Institute of Minnesota,   Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota,   Minnesota Council of Churches, and Arrive Ministries)  look at affordable housing, staffing, services like health screenings and ESL classes to determine how many refugees they believe their areas can take in.  The agencies can increase the number of allocated refugees by 10 percent without federal approval as well.

Approximately 20 percent of Minnesota’s refugees are from Myanmar (also called Burma). Minnesota also has refugees from Liberia, Laos, Iraq, Ethiopia as well as 39 Syrian refugees accepted from 2015 through this year.  

An article published by the Pew Research Center details the changes in the numbers of refugees allowed into the US and their countries of origin since 1980:

The countries of origin of refugees coming to the U.S. have shifted during the past three decades. The annual number of refugee arrivals in the U.S. peaked at about 210,000 in 1980 as a result of a large wave of refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia. In the 1990s, an influx of refugees from Europe came to the U.S. due to political turmoil in the former Soviet Union and the genocide in Kosovo.

After the 2001 passage of the Patriot Act, which broadened the definition of a terrorist group and what it means to support one, the annual number of refugees allowed into the U.S. dipped dramatically to fewer than 30,000 refugees in 2002 and 2003. But upticks in refugee arrivals started again in 2004 with a wave of Somali refugees. In 2008, thousands of Burmese and Bhutanese were granted refugee status.

Of the more than 70,000 refugees who have been admitted to the U.S. so far in fiscal year 2016, the largest numbers have come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma (Myanmar) and Syria. (Refugees in the U.S. are defined differently and a different process is used in accepting refugees than in the EU.)

The Pew Center article also shows that 46 percent of refugees to the US are Muslim, with 44 percent reporting to be of Christian faith in 2016:


Minnesota Refugees by Country FY 2015 (US Department of Health & Human Services)

Afghanistan – 42

Belarus – 1

Bhutan – 50

Burma – 906

Congo – 5

Croatia – 3

Cuba -3

Djibouti – 2

Eritrea – 22

Ethiopia – 62

Gabon – 1

Guatemala – 3

Guinea – 1

India – 1

Iran – 4

Iraq – 117

Liberia – 3

Mexico – 11

Palestine – 1

Russia – 8

Saudi Arabia – 1

Somalia – 1033

Sri Lanka – 12

Sudan – 15

Syria – 7

Thailand – 2

Ukraine – 33

Vietnam – 3

Andrea Mayer-Bruestle

Andrea Mayer-Bruestle is a former writer for Alpha News.