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Refugees: A Fact Sheet

The need for international protection of refugees stemmed from the plight of displaced civilians in Europe during World War II. Most refugees are displaced from their country of origin to a neighboring country, and then resettled to a third country through international organizations like the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The United States resettles more refugees than any other country, and these refugees go on to contribute to our communities and our economy.  

What is a refugee?

A refugee, as defined by Section 101(a)42 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), is a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” due to race, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin. This definition is based on the United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocols relating to the Status of Refugees, which the United States became a party to in 1968. Following the Vietnam War and the U.S. experience of resettling Indochinese refugees, Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980, which incorporated the Convention’s definition into U.S. law and provides the legal basis for today’s U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

How many refugees are there in the world?Read more...

Published On: Wed, Oct 01, 2014 | Download File

New American Investors Making a Difference in the Economy

The Immigrant Investor Program, also known as “EB-5,” has become an increasingly important source of investment for development projects in the United States, attracting billions of dollars to the U.S. economy and creating tens of thousands of jobs. However, the program is unlike any other managed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in that it is the only visa program whose stated purpose is to create jobs and growth. This mandate creates special challenges and opportunities. Read more...

Published On: Tue, Sep 30, 2014 | Download File

New Americans in the Voting Booth: The Growing Electoral Power of Immigrant Communities

The United States is in the midst of a major demographic transformation that has profound political consequences. Over the past couple of decades, the number of voters who are immigrants or the native-born children of immigrants (“New Americans”)—as well as members of the larger communities to which immigrants and their children belong (primarily Latinos and Asians)—has grown dramatically. Between 1996 and 2012, the number of New American registered voters rose by 10.6 million—an increase of 143.1 percent—and the number of registered voters who are Latinos or Asians and Pacific Islanders (APIs)  increased by 9.8 million. Conversely, fewer and fewer voters are native-born whites. Read more...

Published On: Tue, Sep 23, 2014 | Download File

Reimagining the Midwest: Immigration Initiatives and the Capacity of Local Leadership

Elected and civic leaders throughout the Midwest are recognizing that they have a role to play in shaping immigration policy despite inaction at the federal level, according to a report released by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the American Immigration Council.  Read more...

Published On: Mon, Sep 22, 2014 | Download File

Immigrant Women in the United States: A Portrait of Demographic Diversity

There are more than 20 million immigrant women and girls in the United States today, and they are a formidable presence in U.S. society and the U.S. economy. Immigrant women come from every corner of the globe and slightly outnumber immigrant men. Read more...

Published On: Wed, Sep 10, 2014 | Download File

Asylum in the United States

Asylum is a protection granted to foreign nationals already in the United States or at the border who meet the international definition of a “refugee.” A refugee is defined as a person who has been persecuted or has a well-founded fear of being persecuted “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” This definition derives from the United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocols (“Convention and Protocols”)—international agreements to which the United States is a signatory. Congress incorporated this definition into U.S. immigration law in the Refugee Act of 1980. Also, the Convention and Protocols and U.S. law protect the asylum-seeker from “non-refoulement.” In other words, under international law, a country cannot return or expel people to places where their lives or freedoms could be in jeopardy. Asylum status is granted by asylum officers or immigration judges. In FY 2012, 29,484 individuals were granted asylum.

There are two asylum processes in the United States: the affirmative process and the defensive process.Read more...

Published On: Wed, Aug 27, 2014 | Download File

The President’s Discretion, Immigration Enforcement, and the Rule of Law

The President has the legal authority to make a significant number of unauthorized migrants eligible for temporary relief from deportation that would be similar to the relief available under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Read more...

Published On: Tue, Aug 26, 2014 | Download File

Unauthorized Immigrants Today: A Demographic Profile

With Congress gridlocked on immigration reform, all eyes have turned to the White House to implement administrative reforms that will address some of the consequences of years of legislative stalemates. While it remains to be seen what those fixes will be, the central question—as always—will be what to do about some or all of the estimated 11.7 million unauthorized immigrants now living in the United States. Tackling this issue effectively involves overcoming a common misperception that unauthorized immigrants consist primarily of barely literate, single young men who have recently crossed the southern border and live solitary lives disconnected from U.S. society. The truth, however, is that unauthorized immigrants include adults and children, mothers and fathers, homeowners and people of faith, most of whom are invested in their communities.Read more...

Published On: Tue, Aug 19, 2014 | Download File

Taking Attendance: New Data Finds Majority of Children Appear in Immigration Court

As the number of unaccompanied children arriving at the United States border has increased, some lawmakers have argued that children frequently fail to appear for proceedings and thus proposed mandatory detention as a solution. Some say as many as 90 percent fail to attend their immigration court hearings. Yet government data recently published by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) indicates the opposite. Not only do a majority of children attend their immigration proceedings, according to TRAC, but 90 percent or more attend when represented by lawyers. Read more...

Published On: Tue, Jul 29, 2014 | Download File

Children in Danger: A Guide to the Humanitarian Challenge at the Border

This guide has been updated. Please see A Guide to Children Arriving at the Border: Laws, Policies and Responses for the latest information.

The American Immigration Council has prepared this guide in order to provide policymakers, the media, and the public with basic information surrounding the current humanitarian challenge the U.S. is facing as thousands of young migrants show up at our southern border. This guide seeks to explain the basics. Who are the unaccompanied children and why are they coming? What basic protections are they entitled to by law? What happens to unaccompanied children once they are in U.S. custody? What has the government done so far? What additional responses have been proposed to address this issue? Read more...

Published On: Thu, Jul 10, 2014 | Download File