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Understanding refugee quotas

Every year, people from all over the world looking to flee their countries of origin will often attempt to come to Louisville or other cities in the U.S. seeking asylum. Their reasons for wanting to leave their countries may vary; some may be trying to escape religious or ethnic persecution, while others may want to get their families out of areas involved in military conflicts. Whatever their motivations may be, these refugees have often viewed the United States as a safe haven. Officials in the U.S. have typically been willing to accept them, yet only to a certain point. 

Refugee admissions are not counted towards the number of spots allotted annually to people wanting to come to the U.S. as immigrants. Thus, while the U.S. government has shown a desire to help refugees escape the hostile situations they are in, it also recognizes the need to not allow the number of such entrants to overwhelm its admission resources. For this reason, legislation has been enacted that caps the number of refugees the U.S. will accept every year. The guidelines regulating these numbers were established by the Refugee Act of 1980

Initially, the Act set the cap on refugees at 50,000 for the years 1980-1982. After that, authority to establish the refugee quota for each subsequent year was given to the President (per USA Today, the Trump Administration has set the quota at 45,000 for 2018). The President does have authority during a given year to allow the number of refugees admitted to exceed the quota in the following circumstances: 

  • An unforeseen emergency refugee situation exists
  • Admitting certain refugees in response to this situation is in the country's best interest
  • Admission of said refugees cannot be done within the confines of the current year's quota

The Attorney General may also admit refugees in certain situations. 

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