Asylum in the USA: History and Facts

Asylum in the USA: History and Facts

The right of asylum of individuals is honored in the United States as specified by international (as international agreements) and federal law. The United States is obliged to recognize valid claims for asylum under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. This commitment was codified and expanded with the passing of the Refugee Act of 1980 by the United States Congress.

As defined by these agreements, a refugee is a person who is outside his or her country of nationality who, owing to a fear of persecution on account of a protected ground, is unable or unwilling to avail himself of the protection of the state. Protected grounds include race, nationality, religion, political opinion and membership of a particular social group.

After beginning of the Cold War, till the mid-1990s, the majority of refugees resettled in the U.S. were people from the former-Soviet Union and Southeast Asia. Following the end of the Cold War, the largest resettled group were refugees from the Balkans and Vietnam. From the 2000s, increased the amount of Africans fleeing various ongoing conflicts in the annual resettled population rose.

A specified number of legally defined refugees (in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship), who apply for asylum either overseas or after arriving in the U.S., are admitted annually. The persons, who are seeking the refugees status is about one-tenth of the total annual immigration to the United States, though some large refugee populations are very prominent. Since World War II, more refugees have found homes in the U.S. than any other nation and more than two million refugees have arrived in the U.S. since 1980. In the years 2005 through 2007, the number of asylum seekers accepted into the U.S. was about 40,000 per year. This compared with about 30,000 per year in the UK and 25,000 in Canada. The U.S. accounted for 15% to 20% of all asylum-seeker acceptances in years.

The historical gateways for resettled refugees have been California, New York, the Midwest – Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul. Particular cities are also identified with some national groups: metropolitan Los Angeles received almost half of the resettled refugees from Iran, 20% of Iraqi refugees prefer go to Detroit, and nearly one-third of refugees from the former Soviet Union were resettled in New York. These ethnic enclaves partially result from attempts by the agencies (state and private) organizing resettlement to place newly arrived refugees with family members already in the U.S. and in locations where government agencies and charities are known to have staff that speak the pertinent language. Ethnic grouping also results as refugees and migrants seek out the comfort of familiar languages, food and customs.