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California Leads The Nation In Resettlement Of Syrian Refugees

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- California has taken in more Syrian refugees this year than any other U.S. state, while some states haven't accepted a single Syrian refugee.

California resettled 1,450 Syrian refugees during the 2016 fiscal year, up from only 179 last year, according to data from the U.S. Department of State's Worldwide Refugee Admissions Processing System.

To put it into perspective, California resettled almost as many Syrian refugees this year as the entire U.S. did last year.

California has been key to the U.S. meeting a goal set by President Barack Obama to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this fiscal year, which ended October 1.

The U.S. exceeded its goal, settling 12,587 Syrian refugees this year, according to U.S. Department of State data.

While the U.S. Department of State has announced its intentions to increase the number of worldwide refugees coming into the U.S. from 85,000 in 2016 to 110,000 in 2017, the number of Syrian refugees expected to be resettled next year has not yet been announced.

But on Tuesday, President Obama will host the Leaders' Summit on Refugees during the United Nations General Assembly, where he is expected to urge governments to take in more refugees, including those fleeing civil war in Syria.

Syrians are continuing to flee a war that is now in its fifth year. A war that has killed over 400,000 people, according to the United Nations.

It has created about 4.2 million refugees and about 7.6 million internally displaced persons, according to Human Rights Watch.

California Governor Jerry Brown and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) are among California's elected officials who have ardently pledged not to turn away Syrian refugees.

Feinstein wrote in November 2015, "The Syrian people are the ones suffering the most from both ISIL and the Assad regime, and the international community has a responsibility to protect those fleeing the depravity."

And, cities in California have taken on some of that responsibility this year.

Most of the Syrian refugees resettled in California this year are now living in San Diego.

Sacramento has resettled 265 Syrian refugees, while Turlock has resettled 115.

While the number of Syrian refugees arriving in the Bay Area is significantly lower than in Southern California, over 50 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the East Bay and South Bay communities this year.

In Oakland, 28 Syrian refugees have been resettled this year, followed by San Jose with 12 and Los Gatos and Walnut Creek with 7 and 5, respectively.

But many communities, and U.S. states, still aren't willing to accept them.

In a 2015 letter to President Obama, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he wouldn't accept Syrians in his state. However, Texas actaully resettled the third-highest number of refugees, behind only California and Michigan.

"Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values," Obama said in 2015.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Donald Trump's running mate, ordered agencies in Indiana not to help Syrian refugees resettle. But Pence's attorneys have faced tough questioning by a federal appeals court over the matter. A lower court has already found the order discriminatory.

Michigan was second behind California, resettling 1,374 Syrian refugees this year. Arizona came in fourth, with 833 Syrian refugees resettled.

Ten U.S. states, as well as Washington D.C., didn't resettle a single Syrian refugee this year. 

In addition to over 12,500 Syrian refugees resettled in the U.S., other Syrians who are currently in the U.S. have been granted permission to stay, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in early August.

Syrians already in the U.S. are allowed to stay due to their Temporary Protected Country status, a designation that allows foreign nationals currently in the U.S. to remain in the U.S. without traditional immigration approvals because return to their home country has been deemed unsafe.

Johnson said, "We reject the notion that we should shut down the refugee resettlement process and close our doors to a worldwide refugee crisis. That's not who we are as a country."

Johnson said refugees are resettled only in communities willing and able to accept them.

But a fair share analysis by OXFAM released earlier this year suggests that a country with as large an economy as the U.S. should have taken in over 163,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this fiscal year.

By Hannah Albarazi - Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.

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