COLUMBIA - After President Trump's executive order that put a temporary hold on people from certain countries entering the United States, there was a lot of talk of who is coming to the United States. One of the ways people are allowed to enter the United States without citizenship is by obtaining refugee status.
KOMU 8 News obtained data from the Refugee Processing Center about refugees coming to the United States, and specifically Missouri. The data reflects refugees who entered the United States between January 1, 2007 and April 27, 2017.
The government makes refugee data available for download. After downloading the data in April 2017, KOMU 8 News sifted through the data line by line to ensure there were no inconsistencies. After the data was cleaned, KOMU 8 News used SQLite data manager to analyze the data.
KOMU 8 News then wrote queries into SQLite that would help sift through and organize the data in a digestible way. We wrote queries to pull out specific information in the data and took note of trends.
What we found
In the last ten years, 13,466 people have found refuge in Missouri. The refugees came from 40 different countries around the world and settled in more than 50 different cities in Missouri.
The nationality that most commonly resettled in Missouri in the last ten years is Burmese. 2,548 Burmese refugees came to Missouri in that time, 405 of which resettled to Columbia. So far this year, no refugees have come from Burma.
While the number of refugees from Burma has been decreasing in recent years, the number of refugees from The Democratic Republic of Congo is picking up.
1,379 refugees have come to Missouri from The Democratic Republic of Congo over the last ten years. 1,221 of those have come since 2014. They have found refuge in nine cities in Missouri, including Columbia but not Jefferson City. 200 Congolese refugees have come to Columbia.
KOMU 8 News also analyzed data about refugees coming from the seven countries on President Trump's proposed travel ban. 2,669 people came from Somalia, 2,068 people came from Iraq, 533 from Syria, 332 from Sudan, 95 from Iran, 2 from Yemen to Missouri in the last 10 years. There were no people from Libya to Missouri in the last 10 years.
A total of 700,552 refugees have come to the United States since January 1, 2007.
Rebuilding a life
In order to be given refugee status, a person must be fleeing persecution or conflict in his or her country. This is the reason people are fleeing Burma, or Myanmar. The country is involved in one of the world's longest running civil wars. The United Nations has cited several human rights violations over the years, including issues of mistreating ethnic minorities and religious clashes.
KOMU 8 News spoke with a refugee from Burma who has resettled in Columbia. Ching Ching Hlamyo has been living in Columbia for 7 years and has established her own business in town. Though she loves her home country, he said life is much better in the United States.
"Everybody likes America because it's the best country in the world," she said. "Also in Columbia, I like the community."
Hlamyo has 3 children and a husband. Her oldest child, a 9-year-old girl, was born in Malasia. The family lived there for 4 years in the time between leaving Burma and coming to the United States.
She and her husband decided open the Shwe Oriental Market in Columbia after realizing the problems they faced in the work force.
"At work, sometimes it's hard to communicate with each other, and you don't speak very much," she said. "We don't have any education in America, so it's very hard to get to a better place."
She said having her own business allows her to spend more time with her children because they can come to the store with her. She also says having the business has made her feel more connected to the Burmese community within Columbia.
"I think it's a small town, and the community is welcoming. I think Columbia is a nice place to live with a famiily."
The language barrier is just one of the many problems refugees face, so they need assistance when they are placed in a destination city. Refugees do not get to choose the city where they are placed. Destination cities are determined by the amount of resources a city has to help the refugees once they have arrived. In Columbia, City of Refuge does just that.
Barry Stoll, the Executive Director of City of Refuge, said he realizes how hard the refugee process is and it motivates him to help.
"Refugees are a beautiful addition to our community," he said. "They are adding to our workforce, to our culture, to our diversity of our town and it's wonderful. We benefit from them being here as well in all different areas of our culture."
Stoll said he believes having refugees in America only adds to the greatness of our country, and he has a message for them.
"I'm glad you're here. Welcome. I hope that we can be friends."