Deal renews debate over number of refugees coming to Georgia

Gov. Nathan Deal reignited a debate this week about the number of refugees being resettled in Georgia when he fired off an angry letter to President Barack Obama concerning the surge of Central American children who are illegally crossing the southwest border on their own.

Though such children do not have refugee status, Deal complained in his letter that Georgia has received a “disproportionate number of refugee placements over the past few years.” Deal reminded Obama that his administration has raised such concerns in recent years.

“Your administration continues to send refugees to Georgia,” Deal said, “while at the same time many mayors and legislators from across the political spectrum have expressed their (and my) desire to rein in the influx of refugees to the state of Georgia. It is my hope that you and your administration will respect this request.”

Last year, Georgia ranked seventh among states for the total number of refugees it had taken in over the previous six years, with a total of 16,090, according to an AJC analysis of federal records. That hews closely to Georgia’s ninth-place ranking for total population.

Local refugee resettlement officials pushed back against Deal’s comments this week, saying Georgia receives a proportionate amount of refugees.

“Over 80 percent of refugees are self-sufficient within six months of arrival and generate more than $11 million in federal taxes, $4.6 million in state taxes and $1.7 million in local taxes in their first year alone,” said J.D. McCrary, the executive director of the International Rescue Committee in Atlanta. “That same group of first-year refugees generates over $40 million in household income recycled in the community, making welcoming refugees not only good humanitarian practice but sound economic sense as well.”

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