Amid the flurry of statements declaring Syrian refugees unwelcome in 26 states including Louisiana, Michigan, and Nevada, governors seem to be hoping one fact would just go away: Refugees can, and will, go wherever they want once they move to the United States.
According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, in 2012 alone more than 10,000 refugees living in America moved to a different state from the one where they’d originally settled (The U.S. has resettled about 784,000 refugees from around the world since September 11, 2001).
The most popular destinations in 2012 were Minnesota, Florida, Ohio, and Texas, according to government data. That’s even though Florida, one of the states whose governor recently said he won’t accept Syrian refugees, hasn’t exactly rolled out the welcome mat. In Florida, for example, the amount of refugee cash assistance available to a single adult in 2012 was just $180 a month, less than the assistance available in the majority of other states, even though median monthly housing costs are higher. Florida also pays out lower Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefits than other states: just $303 for a family of three. California and Connecticut pay double that.
Secondary migration can be an organic phenomenon, with people moving to states where they know others, or where they’ve heard there are jobs. Despite claims that refugees move to states where they receive the highest benefits, Kathleen Newland of the Migration Policy Institute says refugees can lose cash and medical assistance when they relocate.