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On the 40th Anniversary of the U.S. Refugee Act

Message from African Human Rights Coalition on this Historic anniversary:

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Refugee Act, the landmark legislation signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on March 17, 1980, that established the contemporary U.S. refugee resettlement program and asylum system.

This legislation reflects the values of the American people. That we are bound to extend basic human rights and protections to refugees and asylum seekers.

Now we are struggling with the obscene reality that many of the basic refugee protections codified in the Act are under dangerous threat, which we can blame entirely on this administration, that has sought to impede refugee rights and impacted the amount of refugees we are admitting into the United States at a time when displaced persons exceed 60 million worldwide.

We need to do all possible to restore faith in our global standing as a place of refuge: As a nation where our very foundation exudes the toil of immigrants, let us reflect today not only on the value and importance of this country as a place of refuge, but also on the critical contributions by refugees, asylum seekers and all immigrants to the development and wellbeing of this land. We look forward to the day when we can again open America's gates to the refugee numbers that reflect our values and obligations to humankind. Melanie Nathan Marc Cohen

And The AHRC Team

Notes: The Refugee Act of 1980 created The Federal Refugee Resettlement Program to provide for the effective resettlement of refugees and to assist them to achieve economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible after arrival in the United States.

The United States recognizes the right of asylum for individuals as specified by international and federal law. A specified number of legally defined refugees are admitted annually. These refugees are not eligible to apply for asylum from inside the U.S. but have applied for refugee status through the United Nations.

An asylum seeker is someone who is seeking international protection but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined. In contrast, a refugee is someone who has been recognised under the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees to be a refugee.

A former senior government official who oversaw refugee resettlement under Barack Obama warned that the Trump administration’s decision to slash the refugee admissions cap to a record low could have fatal consequences.

Bob Carey, the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) under the Obama administration from 2015 to 2017, told the Guardian the new limit of 30,000 (now down to 18,000 per year) refugees per year and the Trump administration’s justification for the cap was “a new low in our history”. “People will be harmed,” Carey said. “People will die.” Under President Obama over 110,000 - 130,000 per year were admitted.

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