Michigan has accepted 505 Syrian refugees and counting since May 2011—the highest number of any other state, according to new State Department data.
Despite Gov. Rick Snyder's November 2015 declaration to stop accepting refugees into the state until their backgrounds have been investigated, about 300 more refugees are expected to arrive this summer, according to Charles Ramirez of The Detroit News. The governor's stance was symbolic since state governments can't determine how many refugees should be taken.
The refugees are fleeing from a chaotic and bloody Civil War that has been unfolding in Syria between Syria's president Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces for the last five years.
Many groups are still working to help refugees settle in Michigan, including Samaritas, a nonprofit, social service organization who has worked with 125 refugees.
“We don’t know that we are going to always be necessarily the largest state receiving Syrian refugees — it’s early on in the resettlement of Syrian refugees, and sometimes they naturally gravitate to locations, as they seem to be doing with Michigan,” Chris Cavanaugh, director of refugee resettlement for Samaritas, told the Detroit News.
Refugees may be attracted to Michigan because of the large Middle Eastern population, particularly in Oakland and Wayne counties. About 6,400 people with Syrian ancestry live in Metro Detroit, according to the article.
California ranks second in the nation for taking in Syrian refugees, with 496, followed by Arizona with 368, Pennsylvania with 364 and Texas with 359. 12 states had none, including the District of Columbia, Alabama, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Alaska.
Some local residents have expressed concerns, including Rochester Hills resident Dick Manasseri. Some are skeptical about accepting refugees because they believe that terrorists could pose as refugees and make the U.S. susceptible to an act of terrorism. He contributes to the Refugee Resettlement Monitor-Michigan website and says he has been critical about Michigan refugees because he believes they can’t all be thoroughly vetted.
“People in law enforcement, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, all say refugees can’t be vetted because there are no records for them,” he told the Detroit News. “Our own government says that. Since Syrian refugees are not vettable, Michigan being No. 1 for where Syrian refugees are settled is a point of concern.”
Jeralda Hatter, director of immigration and refugee services for Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, says these concerns are baseless.
“In my 25 years of working with refugees, I’ve heard all kinds of concerns and comments from people,” Hattar said to the Detroit News. “But I don’t know of any actual terrorist attacks or attempted attacks by any of the refugees I’ve worked with. If that would have happened, I would have heard about it.”
At least 10,000 Syrian refugees will relocate to the U.S. before October 2016, according to the article. It's estimated that an additional 100,000 resettled refugees from around the world will find new homes around the country by October 2017.