Local resettlement agencies are pushing back, saying refugees create a net gain for the state by working and paying taxes and attracting millions of dollars in federal aid money to Georgia. Many have created businesses in the Atlanta area.
Advocates also point out that Georgia’s eighth place ranking for refugee resettlements hews closely to its ninth place ranking among states for the total size of its population — at 9.9 million. Texas took in the largest number of refugees last fiscal year at 7,466 followed by California, 6,379; Michigan, 4,651; New York, 3,965; Florida, 3,613; Arizona, 3,052; and Ohio, 2,788.
In all, 69,909 refugees were resettled nationwide in fiscal year 2013, up 20 percent from the year before. These three countries sent the largest numbers: Iraq, 19,487; Myanmar, 16,299; and Bhutan, 9,134.
To resettle in the U.S., refugees must first demonstrate they were persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution based on religion, political opinion, race, nationality or membership in a particular social group. They are given health screenings to ensure they don’t bring contagious diseases, such as tuberculosis, into the U.S.
Federal and state agencies work with private resettlement organizations, which determine where refugees should be located. Factors include where relatives reside and the availability of jobs, affordable housing, public transportation, English classes and interpreters.
The federal government provides refugees with funding that partially covers the cost of rent, furniture, food and clothing. Private contributions supplement that funding. Refugees may work in the U.S. They are required to apply for permanent residency after a year and are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship after five years.