Here is the final part of our survey on the various facets of LEGAL immigration.

  1. Refugees and Asylees

Protection of Refugees, Asylees and other Vulnerable Populations

There are several categories of legal admission available to people who are fleeing persecution or are unable to return to their homeland due to life-threatening or extraordinary conditions.

Refugees are admitted to the United States based upon an inability to return to their home countries because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” due to their race, membership in a social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin.  Refugees apply for admission from outside of the United States, generally from a “transition country” that is outside their home country.  The admission of refugees turns on numerous factors such as the degree of risk they face, membership in a group that is of special concern to the United States (designated yearly by the president and Congress), and whether or not they have family members in the U.S.

Each year the president, in consultation with Congress, determines the numerical ceiling for refugee admissions.  The total limit is broken down for each region of the world as well.  After September 11, 2011, the number of refugees admitted into the United States fell drastically, but annual admissions have steadily increased as more sophisticated means of conducting security checks have been put into place.

For fiscal year (FY) 2013, the president set the worldwide refugee ceiling at 70,000, and the regional allocation was as follows:

  • Africa: 12,000
  • East Asia: 17,000
  • Europe and Central Asia: 2,000
  • Latin America/Caribbean: 5,000
  • Near East/South Asia: 31,000
  • Unallocated Reserve: 3,000

TOTAL:  70,000

Asylum – People already in the United States who were persecuted or fear persecution upon their return may apply for asylum within the United States or at a port of entry at the time they seek admission.  They must petition within one year of arriving in the U.S. There is no limit on the number of individuals who may be granted asylum in a given year nor are there specific categories for determining who may seek asylum.

Refugees are eligible to become Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) one year after admission to the United States and asylees are eligible to become LPRs one year after receiving asylum.

  1. The Diversity Visa Program

The Diversity Visa lottery was created by the Immigration Act of 1990 as a dedicated channel for immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.  Each year, 55,000 visas are allocated randomly to nationals from countries that have sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the previous five years.  Of the 55,000, up to 5,000 are made available for use under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), a program which grants permanent resident status to certain nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, and countries of the former Soviet bloc.  This results in a reduction of the actual annual limit to 50,000.

Although originally intended to favor immigration from Ireland (during the first three years of the program, at least 40 percent of the visas were exclusively allocated to Irish immigrants), the Diversity Visa program has become one of the only avenues for individuals from certain regions in the world to secure a green card.

To be eligible for a diversity visa, an immigrant must have a high-school education (or its equivalent) or have, within the past five years, a minimum of two years working in a profession requiring at least two years of training or experience.  A computer-generated random lottery drawing chooses selectees for diversity visas.  The visas are distributed among six geographic regions, with a greater number of visas going to regions with lower rates of immigration and with no visas going to nationals of countries sending more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the last five years.

People from eligible countries in different continents may register for the lottery.  However, because these visas are distributed on a regional basis, the program especially benefits Africans and Eastern Europeans.  According to the last visa bulletin in FY 2014, the majority of diversity visas will go to aspiring immigrants from African countries.

  1. Other Forms of Humanitarian Relief

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is granted to people who are in the United States but cannot return to their home country because of “natural disaster,” “extraordinary temporary conditions,” or “ongoing armed conflict.”  TPS is granted to a country for six, 12 or 18 months and can be extended beyond that if unsafe conditions in the country persist.

Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) provides protection from deportation for individuals whose home countries are unstable, therefore making return dangerous.  Unlike TPS, which is authorized by statute, DED is at the discretion of the executive branch.

Certain individuals may be allowed to enter the U.S. through parole, even though he or she may not meet the definition of a refugee and may not be eligible to immigrate through other channels.  Parolees may be admitted temporarily for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.

  1. U.S. Citizenship

In order to qualify for U.S. citizenship through naturalization, an individual must have had LPR status (a green card) for at least five years (or three years if he or she obtained the green card through a U.S.-citizen spouse or through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  There are other exceptions for members of the U.S. military who serve in a time of war or declared hostilities.  Applicants for U.S. citizenship must be at least 18 years old, demonstrate continuous residency, demonstrate “good moral character,” pass English and U.S. history.

*     *     *

Some facts related to immigration in the U.S., according to Pew Research.  THERE ARE:

2.54 million Muslims

700,000 Russians (all Jewish)

6.5 million Jews

Twenty years ago there were 1.1 billion Muslims in the world.  Twenty years from now that number will double and represent 25% of all people on earth.


1 Comment

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  1. Paul Pendorf

    Very helpful. Thank you for the education Art.

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