US

Virginia’s Syrian Refugees Resettled In Poor Communities Hours Away From Wealthy DC Suburbs

According to data from the U.S. State Department’s Refugee Processing Center, almost all of the Syrian refugees resettled in Virginia since October have been placed in towns with lower incomes and higher poverty rates, hours away from the wealthy suburbs outside of Washington, D.C.

A U.S. Capitol police officer guards the perimeter in front of the U.S. Capitol Building after a shooting at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington March 28, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts   A U.S. Capitol police officer guards the perimeter in front of the U.S. Capitol Building after a shooting at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington March 28, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts   

Of the 121 Syrian refugees placed in Virginia so far, 112 have been placed in communities at least 100 miles away from the nation’s capital; 105 were placed in cities where median incomes fall below the state average.

The D.C. suburban counties of Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington are all among the nation’s wealthiest and, according to U.S. census data, collectively have roughly 1.7 million residents. The three counties have resettled a grand total of nine Syrian refugees, all nine of whom were placed in the city of Falls Church.

The other 93 percent of Syrian refugees in Virginia were all placed at least 100 miles away from the nation’s legislators: Charlottesville (116.9 miles away, according to Google Maps), Harrisonburg (130 miles away), Newport News (171 miles away), Powhatan (137 miles away) and Roanoke (240 miles away) received the rest of the state’s Syrian refugees.

The federal government placed 21 Syrian refugees in the city of Roanoke (population 100,000), where the median household income ($39,530) falls well short of the statewide median ($64,792), according to U.S. Census data. Roanoke’s poverty rate, 21.9 percent, is almost double the state average of 11.8 percent. Despite having both fewer and poorer people than the wealthy suburbs outside the nation’s capital, Roanoke was tasked with resettling twice as many Syrian refugees.

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Charlottesville (population 47,000) has a median household income ($47,218) — less than half Fairfax County’s median household income of $112,000. Charlottesville also has a poverty rate of 25.9 percent — more than double the statewide average. Charlottesville resettled three times the number of Syrian refugees as Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington combined.

Newport News, a city of 182,00, has a median income ($51,000) — well below the state average. The federal government placed 51 Syrian refugees in Newport News.

Harrisonburg (population 53,000), was the poorest Virginia city tasked with resettling Syrian refugees. It has a median household income of $38,807 and a poverty rate of 28 percent. Harrisonburg received six Syrian refugees.

Powhatan, where the median household income ($75,000) is above the state average, resettled seven Syrian refugees.

Follow Peter Hasson on Twitter @PeterJHasson