Get PolitiFact in your inbox.

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson June 13, 2016

Donald Trump correct that U.S. gives 100,000 green cards a year to migrants from Middle East

In a statement after an attack on an LGBT nightclub in Orlando that killed at least 50 people, Donald Trump warned that such attacks would continue as long as the United States opens its doors to Muslim immigrants.

"We admit more than 100,000 lifetime migrants from the Middle East each year," Trump said in the June 12, 2016, statement. "Since 9/11, hundreds of migrants and their children have been implicated in terrorism in the United States. Hillary Clinton wants to dramatically increase admissions from the Middle East, bringing in many hundreds of thousands during a first term – and we will have no way to screen them, pay for them, or prevent the second generation from radicalizing."

In this fact-check, we’ll look at Trump’s assertion that "we admit more than 100,000 lifetime migrants from the Middle East each year." (We’ll leave it to readers to decide whether that’s too many, too little, or just right.)

We will start by noting that "lifetime migrants" is not a commonly used term in the immigration-policy world, and the Trump campaign did not respond to an inquiry for this article.

However, after checking with experts, we feel confident that Trump meant to describe people who are given permanent residency. Specifically, he was referring to the number of people each year who receive "green cards" -- the documentation for permanent residency in the United States, which enables the bearer to apply to become citizens within three to five years.

The Department of Homeland Security tallies these numbers by publishing annual statistics for "persons obtaining lawful permanent resident status" by country of birth. (By and large, refugees are included in this total, though they account for just a fraction of all green-card recipients.)

The trickiest part of checking Trump’s math has to do with what should be considered "the Middle East."

Trump is correct if you use a somewhat expansive definition of the "Middle East." Here’s a rundown by countries and number of new green cards issued in 2014, the most recent year for which full data is available. We’ve listed them in descending order by number of green cards issued.



New green cards in 2014





















Featured Fact-check





Saudi Arabia






United Arab Emirates















That total represents slightly under 10 percent of green card recipients from around the world, which amounted to 1,016,518 in 2014.

Some may quibble with the inclusion of certain countries on this list, since they arguably lie outside a strict definition of the Middle East. These include countries that might be considered to be part of central Asia (Afghanistan and Pakistan), countries that might be considered to be in north Africa (Algeria, Libya and Tunisia), and one country that is partially in Europe (Turkey).

If you subtract the green cards from each of those countries, the number falls to just under 70,000, which would make Trump’s claim somewhat exaggerated.

However, experts we checked with don’t think it’s unreasonable in common conversation to include such countries as Afghanistan, Libya and Pakistan in the Middle East, particularly given how intertwined those countries have become with the United States’ Middle East policy in recent years.

Given Trump’s focus on support for Islamic extremism, it’s also worth a reminder that country of origin is not the same thing as religious affiliation.

"The Census Bureau does not gather data by religious affiliation, so it would not be possible to disaggregate minority-religion populations from this region, such as Coptic Christians and Chaldean Christians, that have sought and received refugee status," said Michelle Mittelstadt, a spokeswoman for the Migration Policy Institute. And many of the immigrants from Israel -- another country included in the chart above -- are Jewish.

And a final technical note: While Trump used the word "admit" in reference to migrants getting green cards, Mittelstadt noted that slightly more than half of all green cards issued annually are given to people who are already in the United States, but who have a different immigration status. So the connection between obtaining a green card and someone’s entry into the United States can be separated in time.

Our ruling

Trump said, "We admit more than 100,000 lifetime migrants from the Middle East each year."

A strict definition of the region produces a number closer to 70,000. But adding in other countries that most Americans would consider to be in the Middle East, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey, brings the number to 100,000 or more. It’s also worth remembering that not all immigrants from these countries are Muslim.

All in all, the statement is accurate but needs clarification, so we rate it Mostly True.

Our Sources

Donald Trump, "Statement Regarding Tragic Terrorist Attack in Orlando, Florida," June 12, 2016

Department of Homeland Security, "Table 3 Persons Obtaining Lawful Permanent Resident Status by Region and Country of Birth: FYs 2005 to 2014," accessed June 13, 2016

Department of Homeland Security, "U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents: 2014," April 2016

Migration Policy Institute, "Middle Eastern and North African Immigrants in the United States," June 3, 2015

Email interview with Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, professor of immigration law practice at Cornell Law School, June 13, 2016

Email interview with Bill Frelick, refugee rights program director at Human Rights Watch, June 13, 2016

Email interview with Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, June 13, 2016

Email interview with Michelle Mittelstadt, director of communications at the Migration Policy Institute, June 13, 2016

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Louis Jacobson

Donald Trump correct that U.S. gives 100,000 green cards a year to migrants from Middle East

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up