President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees and immigrants from seven countries has highlighted communities from coast to coast in the U.S. where refugees have settled.
According to data released Friday by The Associated Press and covering the past decade, Hillsboro was listed as the U.S. destination of three refugees from Iraq, with all three coming in 2009.
Iraq was the only country among the seven countries in question – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – where refugees named Hillsboro as their destination.
While most refugees have settled in large cities, numerous smaller Ohio towns were named by a handful of refugees as their U.S. destinations since 2007, according to the AP data.
But in the region of Highland, Clinton, Fayette, Ross, Adams and Brown counties, only Hillsboro was listed as a destination by refugees from any of the seven countries that are covered by Trump’s executive order. No other cities in those neighboring counties appeared on the AP’s list of destination cities over the past decade.
One of the largest refugee resettlement services in the nation is operated by Catholic Charities, including Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio. Father Mike Paraniuk of St. Mary Catholic Church in Hillsboro said Friday he recalled an Iraqi man who moved to Hillsboro a few years ago with his family and attended his church.
While it is uncertain that the man Paraniuk recalls was one of the refugees who listed Hillsboro as a destination with the State Department in 2009, the priest noted that he could have been.
“He was an interpreter for the U.S. Army,” said the priest. “He worked with the troops and helped root out the bad guys.” He said the man was a “Christian Catholic and he brought his kid here.” He said he had not seen the family in the last couple of years.
The AP noted that while the cities listed in its study were the stated destination of the refugees, “in many cases this is where the refugees first lived, although many may have since moved.”
In all, since 2007 through January 2017, more than 8,700 refugees from the seven countries named Ohio as their destination in the United States. Nationally, 269,679 refugees from the seven countries have come to the United States over the past decade, according to the data compiled by the AP, more than half, 140,449, coming from Iraq.
The AP reported that it found “wide geographic variations depending on refugees’ country of origin. For instance, Somalian refugees listed Columbus, Ohio, and Minneapolis as their two most common destination cities; Iraqis are more likely to head for El Cajon and San Diego, Calif., or Houston.”
Columbus, in fact, was named by more than 5,000 refugees from the seven countries as their destination over the past decade, with most of them – 3,470 – coming from Somalia, as the AP noted.
By comparison, Cleveland was the destination of 1,150 refugees from among the seven countries in the past decade, followed by Dayton with 541, Cleveland Heights with 389, Cincinnati with 211, Toledo with 199, Akron with 167, and Hilliard with 121.
The AP noted that some cities with particularly high totals may be the locations of refugee resettlement programs.
The AP analysis found that 2016 was the busiest year in the past decade for refugee arrivals from the seven countries, with 43,259 arriving last year in the U.S., more than a third of whom were Syrian. Ohio was among the top 10 states receiving refugees in 2016 from the seven countries, with 1,919 coming to the Buckeye State last year.
The AP compiled its data from the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or by email at [email protected]