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Six Florida Cities Rank In Top 100 For Refugee Resettlement

Feb 27, 2020

The Tampa Bay area is becoming a popular location for refugee resettlement - there are more refugees per capita in Clearwater and Tampa than anywhere else in Florida. 

The American Public Media Research study tracked the top 100 cities for refugee resettlement, based on the number on the number of immigrants per 10,000 residents. Among Florida cities, Clearwater topped the list at 47, Tampa came in at 75. 

Four other Florida cities made the list: Orlando, Jacksonville, Miami and Tallahassee.

One thing that draws refugees to the area - already strong immigrant communities. 

Sylvia Acevedo, Director of Refugee and Employment Programs at Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services, said while refugees themselves don't get to choose their placement, settling displaced people within diverse communities, eases some of the transition. 

"The community itself is a diverse community and has been, very welcoming, and there was plenty of work for refugees," said Acevedo. 

Acevedo says since Clearwater already has a large Conogolese population, many refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo are resettled in the area. 

According to Acevedo, relief organizations placed over 17,000 individuals across the Tampa Bay area over the past five years. 

"The refugee doesn't get to pick where they're going," said Acevedo. "(Where they settle) is based on the capacity of the city." 

President Trump signed an executive order in September shifting the decision to welcome or turn away refugees onto the shoulders of local government officials.

While the order has since been tabled, it has sparked debate over who gets to make the final descision on where asylum seekers wind up. Acevedo says her organization is still placing refugees. 

A survey conducted by America Amplified and American Public Media Research Lab found 25% of Americans believe the decision to admit immigrants should be made by state governments – 23% believe the choice should come down to local governments.  

Should the issue once again be raised, Acevedo said local organizations are ready to advocate. 

"Obviously, we would seek the support of the governor who feels strongly that refugees are legal and vetted."