Minnesota remains among top states for refugee resettlement

Published 3:03 pm Saturday, September 3, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota remains among the top states for refugee resettlement, new figures from the U.S. State Department show.

In the past year, Minnesota took in nearly 1,100 Somalis, 166 Ethiopians and 66 Congolese. That’s a large increase from last year through August.

Twenty-five Syrian refugees also resettled in Minnesota in the past year, mostly in Rochester and Minneapolis.

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Last year, President Barack Obama launched a Syrian resettlement program as millions fled to escape the country’s civil war and persecution. The U.S. recently reached its goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees.

Concerned that government screenings did not have enough safeguards to stop Islamic State terrorists from entering the U.S. as refugees, some governors resisted letting Syrian refugees settle in their states. But some members of Congress wanted the U.S. to take in even more Syrians to help ease the flow of refugees into Europe.

Ben Walen, of the Minnesota Council of Churches, said the debate over Syrian refugees has made more people want to help them.

“The sentiment, the public sphere, social media, all of that which was very negative about refugees has more than been countered with positive reactions,” Walen said. He said he has more than enough volunteers to help drive the new arrivals to English classes or job interviews.

A total of 2,335 refugees have settled in Minnesota since last year, the most since 2007. Minnesota ranks 13th nationally for the number of refugees living in the state.