However, rising security concerns after Sept. 11, 2001, and the surging unrest in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East in recent years have pushed more people to flee their home countries with little to no planning and enter the nearest safe place, and these factors have also pushed Europe to play a larger role in permanent refugee resettlement.
Still, the need is large. More than 12.5 million Syrians — that's 6 in 10 people who used to call that country home — have been displaced. And as most anyone paying even scant attention to the news knows, whether and how the United States should admit more refugees from Syria and elsewhere has been the ongoing subject of often-heated debate in the 2016 presidential election.
So, The Fix thought it might be wise to shed a little light on the nation's refugee population, given new data from Pew. Here's a hint: People from Syria, or for that matter the entire Middle East region, do make up a significant portion of the refugees living in the United States right now. But the world's dangerous conflicts also include other countries and regions. Look at the chart below closely. Ex-pat European refugees dominated the nation's refugee population from the late 1990s through the early part of the 2000s. Then, refugees from Asia (this includes the Middle East in Pew's analysis) have steadily dominated since 2007.
And here's how it looked between October and May, broken out by country. Notice Iraq is No. 4 and Syria is No. 6.
What does this mean?
Certainly, there are Muslims in Europe, Asia and Africa as well. But the region with which Muslims are most often associated and where so much of the political discussion has focused — the Middle East — is only one of several areas Pew classified as part of Asia contributing refugees to the United States. And data from the U.S. State Department, which plays a key role in screening and admitting refugees, tells us that Muslims don't make up majority of those admitted to the United States most years, including this one.
Thus far in 2016, the United States has admitted just more than 32,000 refugees, according to State Department data. The majority have come from Burma (Myanmar), the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia. And, for the record, of those admitted between Jan. 1, 2016, and June 17, 2016, 14,427 are Muslims (including all sects), 14,298 are Christians (including all its major denominations and divisions), and 73 are Jewish. The rest practice other religions or are nonbelievers.
In other words, Muslims make up 44 percent of the refugees admitted to the country this year.
Syrian refugees, the majority of which are Muslims but not all, make up about 12.5 percent of this year's total admissions.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump this week renewed calls for a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration in the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando — a crime police believe was perpetrated by the American-born son of Afghan immigrants who had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State. That's a policy proposal that presumes that Muslims as a group represent a distinct threat and creates a group-specific standard based on that presumption. And as The Washington Post fact-checking team discovered this week, that is something over which a president does have some discretion but not total dominion.
Trump's likely Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, has said careful attention to security screening is necessary but so too is an ongoing effort to be of true aid in the growing refugee crisis created by war in Syria.
Above is the scope of the effort over which they disagree.