A wave of hostility against Syrian refugees has washed across Western nations following the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, prompting U.S. governors in Alabama, Michigan, Texas, Louisiana, Illinois and Massachusetts to announce their opposition to placing incoming Syrian refugees in their states. The sentiment is a popular one, too, with a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll finding that 52 percent of Americans now believe the country is made “less safe” by accepting Syrian refugees.
The U.S. has admitted 1,854 refugees since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, and President Barack Obama has pledged to resettle 10,000 of the newcomers this year, raising questions on where these people will go, and where those already here have been placed.
According to the New York Times, most of the refugees have been relocated to medium-sized cities such as Boise, Idaho, and Worcester, Massachusetts, although small populations have been dispersed across the country. There are currently no Syrian refugees recorded as living in Alabama, but Michigan, Texas, Louisiana, Illinois and Massachusetts all contain at least small populations of them. So far, the nine voluntary agencies that handle refugee resettlement have focused on placing the newcomers in cities with high Syrian populations to help ease their integration. Michigan and Connecticut, for example, boast high populations of residents with Syrian ancestry.
One of the refugees resettled this year, Hussam Al Roustom, made the journey to Jersey City, New Jersey, from Jordan after fleeing Syria. He said the transition to life in the U.S. was difficult, given the requirement that refugees become self-sufficient within a year of arriving.
“It’s like taking someone from a very small, dark room to a very, very big world,” he told the New York Times.
Despite the growing fear of security risks posed by Syrian refugees, the State Department said that more than half of the asylum-seekers currently being considered for resettlement in the U.S. are children. But the volume of refugees the U.S. is considering pales in comparison to the number in countries such as Germany, which has accepted 92,991 since 2012.
The U.S. has admitted large numbers of refugees in the past, including 111,000 Vietnamese in 1979 and 120,000 Cubans in the 1980s. In the last fiscal year, too, the U.S. accepted 70,000 refugees, mostly from Myanmar, Iraq and Somalia. Just 2 percent were from Syria.