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.
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