Seeking Data from the Department of State on the Cities Where Refugees Have Resettled

Friday, April 26, 2024
Last modified: 
April 26, 2024
This Freedom of Information Act request seeks to uncover data about the number of refugees resettled in U.S. cities, as well as the refugees’ demographic information.

The United States accepts tens of thousands of refugees each year. Before coming to the United States as a refugee, however, individuals must prove they either have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution based on their political opinion, race, nationality, religion, or membership to a particular social group. This is a long and arduous process. Once in the United States, the U.S. Department of State helps resettle refugees in communities throughout the country.

Currently, the U.S. Department of State—the government agency tasked with running the refugee program—publishes data showing the number of refugees that settle in each state. However, local communities need more granular information to welcome refugees and help them establish lives there. The Department of State published city-level data on refugee resettlement up until 2018. The lack of city-level data on refugee resettlement has presented a challenge for local communities seeking to welcome refugees. 

On April 25, the Council's transparency and research teams requested this information from the Department of State under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The FOIA request seeks:

  1. Individualized, aggregate, locational, and other data on refugees admitted to the United States.
  2. The data dictionaries Department of State maintains to understand the full grasp of the government’s data.

Access to this information is crucial for communities to develop policies that welcome refugees. The information will also help researchers better understand the economic and cultural contributions refugees make in their local communities. Journalists and local entities previously requested city-level refugee resettlement information from the Department of State, but records suggest the agency did not respond to the requests.

Given the importance of this information, the Council asked the Department of State to proactively publish this data on its website.

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