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Carlos Batara - Immigration Attorney

2009 Department Of Homeland Security Report: Asylees And Refugees

– Posted in: Asylum, Refugees, And Migrants

According to the Department of Homeland Security, 74,602 immigrants were admitted to the United States as refugees during 2009.  A much smaller number, 22,119, were granted asylum status.

The U.S. provides a safe harbor to immigrants in both groups who (a) are unable or unwilling to return to their home country, (b) due to persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution if they return to their home country and (c) on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Despite the similarity in law, our government treats refugees and asylees as two distinct categories.


The first category is for refugees, immigrants living outside the U.S.  For 2009, the amount of refugees who could be admitted was limited to 80,000.  Only 74,602 were actually admitted in refugee status.

New Refugees By Country Of Birth

Nearly 68% of new refugees in the U.S. are from just three countries, Iraq, Burma, and Bhutan.  Following the government’s involvement in the Middle East, the Refugee Crisis In Iraq Act of 2007 was passed by Congress.  This has led to a huge increase of Iraqi citizens who qualified for refugee resettlement.

The top ten countries were:

  • 1. Iraq
  • 2. Burma
  • 3. Bhutan
  • 4. Iran
  • 5. Cuba
  • 6. Somalia
  • 7. Enitrea
  • 8. Vietnam
  • 9. Congo D.R.
  • 10. Burundi

New Refugees By Age

  • 0 to 17 years old   (33.8%)
  • 25 to 34 years old (19.9%)
  • 18 to 24 years old (15.7%)
  • 35 to 44 years old  (13.5%)
  • 45 to 54 years old  (8.0%)
  • 55 to 64 years old  (4.9%)
  • 65 years and older (4.2%)

New Refugees By Gender

  • Male      – 51.6%
  • Female  – 48.4%

New Refugees By Marital Status

  • Married (39.9%)
  • Single (54.7%)
  • Other/Unknown (4.9%)

New Refugees By State Of Residence

As a Riverside immigration lawyer, I thought the totals for asylees in California was higher.

After opening my Phoenix immigration law office, I was surprised to find out about the relatively high number of refugees living in Arizona.  The willingness of the state political leaders to accept asylees seems to conflict with their views on immigration, as reflected in measures like SB 1070.

  • California  (15.1%)
  • Texas  (11.0%)
  • New York  (5.9%)
  • Arizona  (5.8%)
  • Florida  (5.6%)
  • Michigan  (4.7%)
  • Georgia  (4.4%)
  • Washington  (3.5%)
  • Illinois  (3.4%)
  • North Carolina  (3.0%)


The second classification is asylees, immigrants already living in the U.S. who are seeking protection from persecution in their home countries.

Asylees can obtain lawful immigration status in two ways.

First, they can be granted via an interview with an immigration officer after they submit an application. This is called the affirmative asylum process.

Second, they can also be granted legal status in immigration court. Normally, if a immigrant’s affirmative asylum application is denied, their case is referred to immigration court. Asylees may also end up in removal proceedings because they are caught trying to enter the United States.

New Asylees By Country Of Birth

Unfortunately, full statistics are not available for asylees. There is no information on age, gender, and marital status for immigrants who won their asylum deportation defense cases at immigration court.

As an asylum attorney, I think the statistics would provide interesting insights on the decision-making by immigration judges.

We do know, however, the top ten countries for new asylees were:

  • 1. China
  • 2. Ethopia
  • 3. Haiti
  • 4. Colombia
  • 5. Iraq
  • 6. Nepal
  • 7. Venezuela
  • 8. Guatemala
  • 9. Russia
  • 10. Egypt

By , Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics