Arlington has taken in fewer refugees than other Northern Virginia communities, according to data from the U.S. State Department-run Refugee Processing Center.
Between 2002-2017, approximately 409 refugees were resettled in Arlington — about .17 percent of Arlington’s population, going by the latest census figures.
In that same time period, a higher percentage of refugees were resettled in Alexandria or Annandale. Alexandria received 1,032 refugees and Annandale received 248. That’s approximately .74 percent and .6 percent of their overall populations, respectively.
In nearby Woodbridge, 271 refugees were resettled between 2002-2017. That’s approximately 6.12 percent of the overall Woodbridge population.
Falls Church, per the data, took in 1,618 refugees from 2002-2017. Per recent estimates, that’s about 13.17 percent of its population.
The Arlington County government has “no official role… in resettlement decisions” and has “expressed interest in serving as a receiving community for refugees,” according to the county’s website.
Alex Mattera, a Virginia Dept. of Social Services (DSS) planning researcher, confirmed to ARLnow that Arlington doesn’t resettle as many refugees as other Northern Virginia localities. This, he added, is likely due to a number of factors, including that only refugees with current local ties are settled in the region.
DSS’ statistics vary slightly from those of the U.S. State Department, in part because of different methods of categorizing the visa status of arrivals. Iraqis and Afghanis who are resettled in America through a S.I.V., the special immigrant visa program for those who assisted the U.S. Armed Forces in their countries during operations.
The 105 Iraqi refugees accounted for a large portion of those resettled in Arlington between 2002-2017, per the Refugee Processing Center data.
Mattera noted that the report from the Refugee Processing Center doesn’t cite SIV entrants in the same category as other refugees, and that Virginia has higher-than-average SIV-related arrivals numbers than most states.
An informal poll conducted by ARLnow in 2015 showed that opinions were mixed among readers whether or not to resettle Syrian refugees specifically in Arlington. According to the State Department data, no Syrian refugees were settled in Arlington between 2002-2017, despite the county stating its willingness to help resettle refugees displaced by the Syrian civil war.
Anna Merod contributed to this report