Immigration & BorderStatewide NewsData Shows Texas Resettled More Refugees Than Any Other State in the Last Decade

After Gov. Abbott announced an opt-out of the refugee resettlement program in 2020, State Department data shows Texas took in more refugees than any other state in the last decade.
January 13, 2020
On Friday, Gov. Abbott penned a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, informing him of Texas’ decision to opt-out of the refugee resettlement program.

The governor cited “disproportionate migration issues,” “an immigration system that Congress has failed to fix,” and a responsibility to “those who are already here” as the basis for his decision.

After describing Texas as “one of the most welcoming states for refugees seeking to escape dangers abroad,” Gov. Abbott continued by saying the state of Texas has received more refugees than any other state, resettling approximately 10 percent of all refugees who have arrived in the U.S. since Fiscal Year 2010. 

According to data from the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, Texas has indeed received more refugees than any other state between 2010 and 2019 with nearly 57,000 recorded arrivals.


By comparison, the second and third states listed, California and New York, had less than 52,000 and 34,000 respective totals during the same time frame.

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At the peak of recorded arrivals in 2016, Texas alone settled nearly 9,000 of the nearly 97,000 refugees who arrived that year and ranked as the number one state for refugee arrivals nearly every year between 2010 and 2019, with the exception of 2010 and 2017. 

The two years Texas did not maintain the number one spot, California outnumbered Texas by less than 500 recorded arrivals. 

Among cities with the highest number of refugee resettlements across the country were Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, and their surrounding areas, according to data from the New American Economy.

Additionally, the cities of Abilene, Midland, El Paso, and Amarillo were among others listed.

From 2010 to 2015, the majority of refugees seeking to resettle in Texas arrived from either Burma or Iraq, while the majority of those who arrived between 2016 and 2019 originated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Other countries frequently listed also include El Salvador, Bhutan, Somalia, and Iran among others.

“In addition to accepting refugees all these years, Texas has been left by Congress to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system,” Gov. Abbott elaborates, citing approximately 100,000 apprehensions at the Texas-Mexico border in May 2019 and apprehensions from more than 50 countries in June 2019.

On a national scale, apprehensions at the southwestern border reached a peak in May, totaling more than 144,000, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

From this perspective, Texas dealt with nearly 70 percent of May’s total illegal immigrant apprehensions along the southwestern border: a population nearly the size of Tyler. 

In accordance with President Trump’s executive order issued in September, state and local jurisdictions must give their written consent to accept refugees under the resettlement program by January 21. 

State and local entities can choose to opt-in or out of the program based on whether or not they believe they have the available resources to care for refugees seeking to settle there. 

So far, 42 governors have given their written consent to accept refugees in accordance with the resettlement program.

Texas is the first state to opt-out.

“Texas has carried more than its share in assisting the refugee resettlement process and appreciates that other states are available to help with these efforts,” Gov. Abbott concludes in his letter to the Secretary of State.  


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Sarah McConnell, Reporter for The Texan

Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.

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