Refugee Admissions to U.S.

A majority of Americans (62%) continue to say the country’s openness to people from around the world is “essential to who we are as a nation.” – Pew Research Center – 17 July 2019

The number who supported openness was at 68% in the 2017 and 2018 surveys. The drop appears due to changes in Republican attitudes of those surveyed. Democrat/Democrat Leaning adults remained strong supporters at 84, 85, and 86% in recent surveys. Republican/Republican Leaning adults decreased their support from 47 to 37%.

Curiosity about this sharp difference in support led me to another Pew study from May 2018. It analyzed the influx of refugees to the U.S. over the years and showed demographics of who supported such action. The following chart shows the number of refugees to the U.S. varies considerably. The partial year data for 2018 has been updated to about 25,000. Projections for 2019 are also for 25,000. Both numbers are a sharp drop from the previous decade.

When adults were asked in 2017 and 2018 if the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, a slim majority of 56 and 51% overall said we are responsible. The impact of political affiliation was very apparent. Those who identified as Rep/LeanRep decreased support for the idea from 35 to 26%. The Dem/LeanDem group increased support from 71 to 74%, about a 3:1 margin between the two groups.

Other demographics in the study were also revealed. The chart below reports men vs women, race differences, attitudes by age group, and education level. The one most remarkable to me was due to religious affiliation. Those who identified as white evangelical protestant supported acceptance of refugees by only 25%. Those who identified as religiously unaffiliated supported acceptance of refugees by 65%. Some organized religions appear to be large obstacles to putting Christian principles into practice.


I am deeply troubled by these statistics. We are a country of immigrants. Most of our ancestors were not born here and came for a wide variety of reasons. The original inhabitants were forced to leave their homelands. That is another disturbing story.

When people face war, homelessness, violence, government unrest, and other terrible things, they seek new and better places to live peacefully, work, and to raise their families. The U.S. has been a beacon of hope for many years for millions of refugees. We should not turn our backs on those who want to come. We should heed the words of the Emma Lazarus poem on the plaque at the Statue of Liberty.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.


This study is an interesting comparison of part of the white population and shows the stark political divide. Thanks to Ryan P. Burge, Eastern Illinois University.

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15 thoughts on “Refugee Admissions to U.S.

  1. The fault lines seem rather predictable. We seem to be dividing into tribes having fewer and fewer common values. That’s not a good trend line to be on. The question I ponder is how to establish enough common ground to survive as a united nation over time.

    • I agree. I often wonder what will bring us together. Do we need to face a catastrophe that will play out within a year or two such as an asteroid impact? Would we argue over whose fault it is? What method would help us escape? It seems we are facing one now with climate changes. Still we bury our heads in the sand and ignore the signs.

      • I read a paper the other day discussing why societies aren’t good at addressing long-term threats. Seems that we process immediate needs, threats and opportunities much better. Individuals worry that they’ll lose out in the short term while strangers my be advantaged over time.

        • The psychology of it must be interesting. With social media being in our faces 24/7, maybe we have removed awareness of the long term consequences of our actions. Instead, the Like and Comment buttons must be addressed immediately.

  2. Well said, Jim.
    I understand where they might be coming from. We have it pretty nice here in the US, and of course it is more comfortable if all around you are the same as you. They are afraid of change, and resentful of having to share the natural and material wealth we enjoy. But as human population outstrips local resources, and as climate change brings about famine and flooding, people will simply have to relocate and it is a moral imperative that those of us with so much make room for them. We must. As children, aren’t we taught to share? Of course. As a population, it seems the US has become like a spoiled child, refusing to make room for the newcomer, refusing to share his cheeseburgers. Not all of us. Just the ones who are yelling the loudest and hugging the flag and thumping their Bibles. It is hard to hear the voices of the rest of us, who would welcome the newcomers. But we must speak up, stand up to the bullies, and remind them that people are to be embraced, not flags.
    Your point is a good one~our identity has always been fluid, changing with each wave of immigrant. What a lovely thing that is, if only the privileged few could let go of their fear and selfish resentment.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments. We moved to this community when our son was very young. We came from a place that was very white and had money. There wasn’t much need visible there. Our current community welcomes people from all over the world. First impact on us was in the schools attended by our son. One elementary had Welcome printed on flags in the entrance hall in 25 languages represented by the families of the students. Rich lessons were taught for those kids. The world has great diversity. We are more alike than different. And those differences can add texture and meaning to our lives we might never experience. Your paintings do the same. They are vibrant with color and tone.

      • Thank you, Jim.

        I am moved to learn that about the community you chose to raise your son in. I was pleasantly surprised to find our school that integrated, as well. Our kids would come home talking about activities at school, casually mentioning this child or that. Not until later did we find that one was from a tribe in Africa, another from China, etc. To the kids, it was no big deal at all. That is how it should be and, I think, will be more and more.

  3. The bottom line seems to be that to be a compassionate American citizen you are most likely to be an educated, young, non-religious, non-white, leftie.

    It’s much the same here in Oz. Both our countries were built on immigration. Yet we have an uncompromising far right who show little sign of being educated, are generally older, Christian and white, who think the incoming border gate should be locked shut to anyone who is not like they are.

    • I don’t want to be ‘locked in’ with that crowd. They scare me more than those who are the newcomers. We meet weekly with a group of people from outside the U.S. who are either refugees, immigrants, studying here at our university, etc. We help them learn English. They are most sincere and friendly. We share how things were done in their country compared to ours. We all learn from each other. They want to be part of the good.

  4. In the past year I have been fortunate to work with many newly immigrated people to Canada. They are hard working people with much the same desires as everyone. Although your statistic show otherwise, I am unsure it is only uneducated that do not accept immigration policies. It is mostly uneducated long time Canadians that I work with (I include myself in this group), most appreciate the hard work and have formed friendships with the newly immigrated people. On the other hand, I also worked at a school district with mostly educated people. There was only white people who worked there. Even the First Nations programs were staffed by mostly white people. Racism was rampant when talking to other employees. Also the work ethic within the school system is atrocious. Regardless of their endless virtue signalling and kind words, it is possible that these are the people with the most to lose through immigration, the only thing that keeps them in their cushy jobs and comfortable overly generous defined benefit pension plans is lack of competition and the barricades they themselves have constructed.

    Due to climate change we may face a future that people move from place to place regardless of borders. If this becomes a reality we better be accepting of it. I have faith we will be, the consequence for humanity is too dire otherwise.

    Take care. Say hi to Melanie. I also saw a skinny moon this morning – do you think it was the same one? 🙂

    • I will say hi to her. I doubt if it was the same one. We are too far apart for that to be possible. One of them was fake. I am very sure mine was real. 🌜

  5. This line jumped out at me – “Some organized religions appear to be large obstacles to putting Christian principles into practice.” Very well said.

    The statistics are sobering, but aside from immigration the trends here (as a previous commenter said, the tendency to be an “educated, young, non-religious, non-white, leftie” if you’re compassionate on this topic) also point to fractures of increasing tribalism and identity politics, nonsensical in most cases, that are baffling to me. Like, driving a certain kind of car defines your political position on everything else. Or, as I was helpfully informed yesterday, patronizing a certain grocery store that sells low-price off-brand items, encourages recycling, and happens to be owned by a European company is a “sissy thing to do”.

    Labeling and snap judgement are killing our opportunity for dialog. I appreciate your boldness in trying to have an actual conversation.

    • Thank you for those comments. More and more societies are defining members with external trappings such as the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the stores we visit, the TV we watch, the list is endless. It is too easy and superficial. Instead, we need to dig deeper into the values held by people. That is hard, takes time, and demands two people honestly exchange truth.

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