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Friday, March 23, 2012

Refugee Admissions and Resettlement Policy

Andorra Bruno
Specialist in Immigration Policy

A refugee is a person fleeing his or her country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Typically, the annual number of refugees that can be admitted into the United States, known as the refugee ceiling, and the allocation of these numbers by region are set by the President after consultation with Congress at the start of each fiscal year. For FY2012, the worldwide refugee ceiling is 76,000, with 73,000 admissions numbers allocated among the regions of the world and 3,000 numbers comprising an unallocated reserve. An unallocated reserve is to be used if, and where, a need develops for refugee slots in excess of the allocated numbers. The FY2012 regional allocations are, as follows: Africa (12,000), East Asia (18,000), Europe and Central Asia (2,000), Latin America/Caribbean (5,500), and Near East/South Asia (35,500).

Overseas processing of refugees is conducted through a system of three priorities for admission. Priority 1 comprises cases involving persons facing compelling security concerns. Priority 2 comprises cases involving persons from specific groups of special humanitarian concern to the United States (e.g., Iranian religious minorities). Priority 3 comprises family reunification cases involving close relatives of persons admitted as refugees or granted asylum.

Special legislative provisions facilitate relief for certain refugee groups. The “Lautenberg Amendment,” which was first enacted in 1989, allows certain former Soviet and Indochinese nationals to qualify for refugee status based on their membership in a protected category with a credible fear of persecution. In 2004, Congress amended the Lautenberg Amendment to add the “Specter Amendment,” which requires the designation of categories of Iranian religious minorities whose cases are to be adjudicated under the Lautenberg Amendment’s reduced evidentiary standard. Subsequent laws extended the Lautenberg Amendment, as amended by the Specter Amendment, through FY2010. For FY2011, Congress extended the amendment only until June 1, 2011, and it temporarily lapsed on that date. It was re-enacted for FY2012 by P.L. 112-74, however, and is now in effect until October 1, 2012. Another provision, referred to as the “McCain Amendment” or the “McCain-Davis Amendment,” had made certain adult children of Vietnamese re-education camp survivors eligible for U.S. refugee resettlement. This amendment was repealed by P.L. 111-117.

The Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR) administers an initial transitional assistance program for temporarily dependent refugees and Cuban/Haitian entrants. This report will be updated as major developments occur.

Date of Report: March 7, 2012
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