Invited by the President

globe photoWe’re often asked how particular refugee groups end up in Minnesota. Why is Minnesota home to more Somalis than anywhere else in the country? Why are there so many Karen people on the east side of St. Paul? Who chooses which refugee groups are granted entry into the United States? These are complicated questions to answer, but here is a little information to get you started.

The answers to the first questions are pretty much the same: people want to live near people like them. National and local resettlement agencies try to take this into account when placing newly arrived refugees, and communities grow as families gravitate to the same areas to be near cultural centers, friends and family, religious life, ethnic grocery stores, and public transportation. Minnesota’s existing refugee communities and welcoming culture make it an attractive place to refugees resettled in other states as well.  In addition, refugee arrivals and distribution are carefully evaluated on a national level.  These combined factors help influence the makeup of Minnesota’s refugee population.

The refugee groups that are granted admission to the United States are chosen by the federal government each year. Each October, there is a report (called the Presidential Determination) to Congress detailing proposed refugee admissions for the upcoming year. This lengthy report gives descriptions of current refugee situations around the world and the U.S.’s relationship to them. You can read the Presidential Determination online to learn more.

This year, the ceiling of total refugee admissions to our country is set at 76,000. The ceiling is a cap and not a quota, and is rarely met. This number is divided among the following people groups:

  • Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12,000
  • East Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . 18,000
  • Europe and Central Asia . . . .  . . . 2,000
  • Latin America/Caribbean. . . .. . . . 5,500
  • Near East/South Asia. . . . . . . . . . 35,500
  • Unallocated Reserve . . . . . .. . . . . . 3,000

Last year, the national ceiling was set at 80,000 and the U.S. actually resettled 73,311 refugees. Minnesota welcomed 1773 refugees with 346 people resettling through MCC Refugee Services. This year, as a state we expect about 1800 refugees and MCC Refugee Services hopes to resettle 350 people again.

Hope that helps answer your questions! There are lots of ways to learn more and get involved with refugees in Minnesota, including volunteering, donating, and educating yourself. The Department of State also provides a useful overview of the US Resettlement Program.  We invite you to attend our next Volunteer Orientation on December 5th from 5-6pm to learn more.  Contact Jennifer ( to RSVP.

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