How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

More people being granted asylum in US, but fewer refugees admitted

Iraqis wait outside the United Nations H


Iraqis wait outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Duma, 15 kms north of Damascus, to register their names on February 13, 2008.

The United States has been admitting fewer refugees since 2009, but the number of people being granted asylum has been going up. This is from a new analysis of federal numbers by the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank that track migration trends and policies.

More than half of the nearly 25,000 individuals granted asylum in fiscal year 2011 came from five countries, the top one being China, followed by Venezuela, Ethiopia, Egypt and Haiti. (Haitians who fled the 2010 earthquake that devastated their country were also recently granted an extension of temporary protected status, allowing them to remain here legally while they seek a way to stay long-term.) Altogether, there has been almost a 20 percent jump in the number of people granted asylum since 2010.

Refugee trends have shifted in the last decade, and the number admitted last year has dropped following a peak in 2009. More than 56,000 people arrived in the U.S. last year as refugees; the almost three-fourths of those resettled came from Burma, Bhutan and Iraq. As they have been in the past, Texas and California continue to be the two most popular destinations for refugees, with the two states taking in more than one-fifth of resettled refugees last year.

Meanwhile, the ceiling for refugees admitted remains set at 80,000, where it has been since 2008. This is 65 percent lower than it was in 1980, according to the report, when it was set at 231,700.

Another notable fact: Refugees and asylees have a relatively short wait for legal permanent status, being eligible to adjust after one year of continuous presence in the country. More than 168,000 refugees and asylees adjusted to legal permanent status last year.

The entire report can be viewed here.

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