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Immigration Border Crisis

Mass Migration of Muslims to U.S. Mostly a Mirage

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LM Otero / AP

Donald Trump might be tapping into Americans' wariness with his call to stop all Muslims from coming into the U.S., a new poll finds — but the flood of Islamic immigrants is a mirage.

Not one predominantly Muslim nation makes the list of top 10 countries of origin for legal immigrants in 2013, according to the most recent census figures compiled by the Migration Policy Institute.

At #14, Pakistan was the top-ranked Islamic country with 13,251 legal permanent residents — just 1 percent of the total 990,553 immigrants who received Green Cards that year, the figures showed.

"Definitely as a share of the foreign population, Middle Eastern and North African immigrants are small," Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the organization's U.S. immigration policy project, told NBC News. "But right now there is a lot of fear about terrorism and that affects how people perceive those numbers."

Tom Brokaw Reflects on Trump's 'Dangerous Proposal' to Ban Muslims 2:33

There has been for several years a "perception that immigration has been out of control is disproportionate to the facts on the ground," Rosenblum said. "The numbers of people immigrating to the U.S. have been pretty stable the last few years, and illegal immigration is much lower than it was a decade ago."

The biggest difference is that the new arrivals aren't coming — as they have in the past — from European countries like Italy, Ireland, Germany and Poland.

"Now the total foreign population is a third Mexican and three-quarters Latin American and Asian," said Rosenblum. "Europe accounted for just 12 percent of the foreign-born population in 2013. It was 75 percent in 1960."

Two years ago, the top three Green Card recipient countries were Mexico, 135,028, China, 71,798, and India, 68,458, according to the figures.

Only 9,552 Iraqis and 1,463 Saudis got Green Cards in 2013. As for Syrians, whom Trump and much of the GOP wants to bar from the United States, just 3,366 were granted permanent residency.

When it comes to other Muslim countries, 10,294 Egyptians, 3,532 Yemenis, 2,783 Lebanese and 376 Libyans were allowed into the U.S. in that year.

Trump caused worldwide outrage this week with his anti-Muslim remarks, but a new Associated Press-GfK poll found the Republican front-runner was reflecting a sentiment of his supporters.

Three-quarters of GOP voters think Muslim immigration is already too high and nearly the same percentage is convinced that Syrian refugees are too dangerous to let into the country, according to the poll.

Pollsters also found that a majority of Americans were opposed to the Obama Administration's plan to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country.

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While much of the fear of Muslims is grounded in the 9/11 attacks and mass killings of Americans by Islamic fanatics like the recent San Bernardino slaughter, Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said something else here is at play.

"You have a well-coordinated Islamophobia industry promoting fear and hysteria about Muslims," said Hooper. "There have been numerous studies that have shown that more people in America were killed by right-wing extremists. But you would be hard-pressed to find anybody who knows that fact."