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Top County Destinations for Asylum Seekers

Published June 21, 2023

New York City remains the top destination for recently arrived migrants seeking asylum in the United States. Almost 39,000 have located in New York in just the last three months, based on the zip codes of where immigrants with new deportation cases have settled according to Immigration Court records. Compared to New York City, Houston and Miami-Dade County are a distant fourth and fifth place. See Figure 1

Figure 1. Top Five Destinations for Immigrants in New Immigration Court Filings, March - May 2023

These numbers compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University cover very recent arrivals from March 1, 2023 through May 31, 2023. These NTAs issued by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials require these noncitizens to appear in Immigration Court and defend themselves against the government’s efforts to deport them. For many, they will need to establish that they should be granted asylum or alternative forms of relief from removal.

Most individuals with newly issued NTAs entered the U.S. at our country’s southwest border. This is true even when they originally came from such far-flung places as Russia and Uzbekistan. Most head away from the border as soon as they can find transportation. Indeed, rounding out the top three destination counties are Los Angeles County and Cook County where Chicago is located.

The most frequent destination county in Texas or in Florida are Harris County, Texas where Houston is located and Miami-Dade County in Florida. Compared with New York City’s total of 38,765 in the last three months, Harris County recorded 11,037 and Miami-Dade County recorded 10,897.

About a quarter (23%) of these asylum seekers (88,779) end up in these five major metropolitan areas. The remaining 296,504 newly arriving individuals and families disperse much more widely. Indeed, 2,399 other counties have become the home for these individuals just during these last three months. See Figure 2. For a complete county-by-county listing go here.

Figure 2. Destinations for Immigrants in New Immigration Court Filings, March - May 2023

The Biden Administration: Destination Varied Markedly By Nationality

Immigrants from a specific country often head to communities in which they have family or other ties. For example, the vast majority of newly arriving Cubans have located in Florida and particularly in Miami-Dade County. In contrast, the majority of Russians have been heading to New York and California. Those from Brazil have located in Massachusetts and their cases are being heard by judges based in Boston. Many individuals from Ecuador have headed to New York City.

Recently, citizens from a number of new countries have been showing up seeking entry at this country’s borders and are being issued Notices to Appear in Immigration Court. TRAC previously reported on the nationalities that arrived during calendar year 2022.

The top nationalities were not limited to foreign nationals from countries in the Western Hemisphere. They include immigrants from India and Russia. More recently, there have been immigrants from Georgia (next to Russia) and Uzbekistan.

There are other important components including individuals and families from four countries in South America: Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil. An increasing number are now from the Caribbean nation of the Dominican Republic, as well as from Haiti and Cuba.

This means that the flow of individuals and families who actually head to particular locales at any point in time has been driven in no small part by the varying numbers within different nationality groups that have sought sanctuary in this country and DHS has issued an NTA for them when allowing them into the country. Table 2 reports the top 5 destination counties during the entire span of the Biden administration from March 1, 2021, through May 31, 2023. During this period 1.9 million noncitizens were issued NTAs. These were largely newly arriving immigrants.

The top five destinations over this longer span of time remained the same, but the order of these metropolitan centers has shifted a bit. New York City remains the top destination. It had some 134,848 asylum seekers and others seeking to start a new life settle there. Cook County, Illinois where Chicago is located fell to fifth place with 36,355. See Table 1.

In contrast, Miami-Dade County climbed to second place with 114,408 immigrants settling there. Its position reflects the large number of Cubans – some 55,668 in total – largely arriving earlier in the Biden administration but whose numbers have since declined.

Table 1. Top Five Destinations for Immigrants in Immigration Court Filings During Biden Administration, March 2021 - May 2023
  Top 5 Destinations
  Rank Number
New York City, NY 1 134,848
Miami-Dade County, FL 2 114,408
Los Angeles County, CA 3 74,854
Harris County, TX (Houston) 4 67,550
Cook County, IL (Chicago) 5 36,355

New York City versus Miami-Dade County have had strikingly different immigrant nationalities choosing to settle in each community. Each metropolitan area was a magnet for only certain nationality groups.

For example, only 270 Cubans settled in New York City while 55,668 settled in Miami. Just 291 Ecuadorians settled in Miami, while 24,680 Ecuadorians made their way to New York City. Repeating this pattern, the numbers of Russians settling in New York City were 10,385 vs just 806 in Miami; for Chinese 6,681 located in New York City vs 10 in Miami, and 6,146 Georgians vs 17 in Miami.

A total of 14 nationality groups had at least 5,000 asylum seekers settling in these two cities during the Biden administration. The respective numbers settling in New York City versus Miami-Dade County are shown in Table 2 and Figure 3.

Table 2. Where Immigrants Headed During Biden Administration
By Nationality: New York City vs. Miami
  Number Settling In*
Nationality** New York City, NY Miami-Dade County, FL Combined
Cuba 270 55,668 55,938
Venezuela 11,695 15,517 27,212
Ecuador 24,680 291 24,971
Nicaragua 2,418 18,136 20,554
Colombia 12,807 5,692 18,499
Haiti 4,366 8,108 12,474
Russia 10,385 806 11,191
Peru 5,137 1,695 6,832
China 6,681 10 6,691
Georgia 6,146 17 6,163
India 5,737 12 5,749
Uzbekistan 5,701 11 5,712
Honduras 2,753 2,945 5,698
Dominican Republic 4,984 328 5,312
* Based upon address of immigrants in Immigration Court filings, March 2021 - May 2023
** Covers all nationalities with 5,000 or more settling in these two locales.
Figures 3. Where Immigrants Headed During Biden Administration
By Nationality: New York City vs. Miami

Complete Numbers For Each State and County Available

A full list of counties immigrants headed to throughout the United States is available in TRAC’s free Immigration Court Filing tool. The number of asylum seekers and others by state or by county is available, along with the month they entered, their nationality, gender and age. These data are current through the end of May 2023, and cover each presidential administration back to October 1991.

TRAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center affiliated with the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Whitman School of Management, both at Syracuse University. For more information, to subscribe, or to donate, contact trac@syr.edu or call 315-443-3563.