MPI Fact Sheet: Syrian Immigrant Population in the United States Is a Small One; Vast Majority Comes Via Family Reunification, Not Humanitarian Route
WASHINGTON – The Syrian immigrant population in the United States is a tiny one, its 86,000 people representing 0.2 percent of the U.S. foreign-born population of 42.4 million in 2014, according to a new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) fact sheet that uses U.S. Census Bureau and other federal data to offer a snapshot of the population’s growth, socioeconomic characteristics and settlement patterns in the United States.
The population grew from 17,000 in 1960 to 55,000 in 2000, rising a further 9 percent by 2010, and witnessing a 43 percent increase between 2010 and 2014 (the Syrian civil war began in 2011). Eighty-one percent of Syrian immigrants obtaining legal permanent residence in 2013 did so on the basis of family ties, according to the most recently available Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data; 8 percent came on employment-based preferences and another 8 percent as refugees and asylees; the remainder came as a result of the diversity visa lottery or other category. By comparison, 65 percent of the overall U.S. immigrant population receiving a green card in 2013 did so based on family ties, 16 percent as a result of employer-based preferences, 12 percent as refugees and asylees, 5 percent diversity visa lottery winners and 1 percent other category.
A total of 2,261 Syrian refugees were resettled in 36 states between the start of fiscal year 2012 and November 20, according to data from the State Department’s Worldwide Refugee Admissions Processing System, with California, Texas and Michigan the top resettlement states. Around two-thirds have been resettled in 23 states where governors have opposed accepting new Syrian refugees. Eight states whose governors have declared they will block such resettlement have not yet received any resettled Syrian refugees. Beyond the refugee resettlement program, a growing number of Syrians are filing for asylum status (successful applicants receive refugee status). The number of Syrian asylum cases rose from 60 in FY 2011 to 811 in FY 2013, according to DHS data. Asylum approval rates were high, rising from 72 percent in 2012 to 83 percent in 2015.
California is the top destination for Syrian immigrants, accounting for 30 percent, followed by New York, Illinois and New Jersey, each with 7 percent. Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Detroit are the top metro areas for Syrian immigrants, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
In 2014, 64 percent of Syrian immigrants were naturalized U.S. citizens, a rate well in excess of the 47 percent naturalization rate for the overall immigrant population. And Syrians were more likely in 2014 than both the native and foreign-born populations to have higher education, with 39 percent holding a four-year college degree, compared to 30 percent and 29 percent for the U.S.-born and overall immigrant populations; they also were more likely to have graduate or professional degrees.
The fact sheet also notes that Syrian immigrants are on average older than the overall immigrant and U.S.-born populations; have higher English proficiency than other immigrants; participate in the labor force at lower rates, due to much lower female workforce participation; work in skilled occupations at higher rates than U.S. and immigrant populations; and report higher family earnings than other immigrants even as they have a larger share with incomes below the federal poverty level, in part due to larger family size.
Read the fact sheet at: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/profile-syrian-immigrants-united-states