Immigrants, Refugees and Asylees

Statistics, Definitions, and Tips

  • Refugees are individuals who flee their country of origin in order to escape persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
  • Asylees, individuals who meet the criteria for refugee status, are physically present in the United States or at a point of entry when granted permission to reside in the United States.
  • Similar to refugees, asylum seekers have been uprooted from their countries of origin, often after suffering years of persecution or torture directed toward themselves, their family and friends, or even their entire community.
  • There are about 33.5 million immigrants living in the United States, which is about 12% of the population. About half have arrived since 1990.
  • Remember that immigrants face multiple stressors, including the stress of moving to and living in another country; learning another language; and negotiating new social, economic, educational, political, and social systems. It is often a confusing and frightening experience.
  • Be aware that clients may have day-to-day stressors, such as limited resources, a need for permanent shelter, lack of employment, or frustrating interactions with agencies.
  • Allow time for clients to share their backgrounds, their pre-migration stories, and changes in their lives since immigrating.
  • Keep current regarding what is happening at the local, state, and federal level relative to immigration issues, particularly the tone of the debate.


Portions adapted from the following:

Sue, D. W. & Sue, D. (2013). Counseling the Culturally Diverse: Theory and Practice. (6th edition). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.