Where Are Refugees From?


Pie chart showing refugees by country

President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive order targets refugees from six majority-Muslim countries. Trump has tweeted: “Refugees from Syria are now pouring into our great country. Who knows who they are—some could be ISIS…” His policy and rhetoric mischaracterize both the nature and the scope of the problem.

To address the President’s question in his tweet—we do know who is coming into the country. According to new data published recently by the UN Refugee Agency, people from the countries Trump wants to ban make up only 6% of all refugees in the United States. In fact, China (26.5%) is the country of origin for the largest share of refugees in the U.S.

These numbers suggest that U.S. leadership does not have an accurate picture of refugees in the United States. If a cap is put on the number of refugees admitted, as the President has previously signaled he intends to do, it may effectively squeeze the smaller parts of the pie out, effectively shutting off a key part of humanitarian assistance that the U.S. must provide.

As of July 2017, the Supreme Court has allowed a narrower version of the President’s travel ban to go into effect, starting with a 120-day ban on refugees slated to end sometime in November 2017. It is a deep blow to the global public health community, who will need to work even harder to ensure the health of populations in conflict and disaster settings who in the meantime will not be welcomed to the United States. So few people from the banned countries actually come to the U.S. and decreasing that already relatively tiny number is not in any way effective anti-terror policy, nor does it contribute to domestic health, safety and well-being.

Databyte via Flo Lee, Twitter @flrnclee