Will Syrian Refugees Settle in Philly?

Jim Kenney, the likely next mayor, says he'd "welcome all seeking safe home to our city."

A mother and her child as they arrive in Germany. Thousands of refugees mainly from Iraq and Syria continue to flood in to Munich railway station in southern Germany as trains arrive from Budapest and Vienna. | Photo by Geovien So/NurPhoto

Thousands of refugees, mainly from Iraq and Syria, continue to flood in to Munich railway station in southern Germany. | Photo by Geovien So/NurPhoto

Last week, the Obama administration announced that the United States will take in at least 10,000 refugees from Syria in the coming year.

That figure pales in comparison to the 800,000 refugees that Germany has vowed to accept, or the 4 million Syrians who have escaped their country, as others have pointed out. But it’s still significantly more Syrian refugees than the U.S. has accepted so far.

Are Syrians likely to settle in Philadelphia in the months ahead? There are a few reasons to think they may.

Most of the nation’s Syrian immigrants currently live in the Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Detroit metropolitan areas, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Migration Policy Institute. A small number of Syrians also call Allentown home. Randy Capps, director of research at the Migration Policy Institute, told CityLab that “incoming refugees with family ties in America are likely to be resettled in these regions, where they have relatives and support networks,” the website wrote.

But Syrian refugees may also settle in areas where immigrants from Western Asia live, CityLab reported. The Philadelphia region ranks No. 13 in the nation for the highest number of immigrants from this area.

Screenshot of the Migration Policy Institute’s map

Screenshot of the Migration Policy Institute’s map

Also, Jim Kenney, the city’s Democratic mayoral nominee, has indicated that as mayor he would welcome refugees from Syria.

“Philadelphia has a long history of being a city of refuge for those in need, welcoming Quakers, Irish immigrants, Sudanese refugees and many others,” Kenney added in a statement. “In keeping with our city’s history, I support the call of many world leaders, including President Obama and Pope Francis, to take in Syrian refugees seeking a safe home.”

Lauren Hitt, Kenney’s spokeswoman, said that the Kenney camp has spoken with “a mix of religious groups, non-profits, leaders in Philadelphia’s Arab community, existing city agencies and immigration advocates” in order to determine how to best take in refugees.

Melissa Murray Bailey, the Republican mayoral nominee, was not immediately available for comment.

If Philadelphia ends up accepting Syrian refugees with open arms, it would likely be to its benefit. As Capps told CityLab, “Like the experience of a lot of other refugees recently who are highly skilled, many of the Syrians may wind up in some low-wage jobs that are not commensurate with the social status they had before. But because of high educational attainment in general and high past job skills attainment, my assumption and hope would be that they would rise in the labor market relatively quickly.”