There are two ways in which a person can seek refuge in the United States-as a refugee or as an asylee. In recent years the Trump administration has sought to curtail the number of refugees admitted to the United States.
What is the Difference Between a Refugee & an Asylum Seeker?
The definition of refugee is set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act §101(a)(42), and states, that “any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, or (B) in such special circumstances as the President after appropriate consultation (as defined in section 1157(e) of this title) may specify, any person who is within the country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, within the country in which such person is habitually residing, and who is persecuted or who has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
In addition to meeting the above definition, a refugee must be (1) outside of the United States, (2) be admissible to the United States, and (3) not be firmly resettled in another country.
The President, in consultation with the Congress, sets an annual ceiling for the number of refugee admissions.
Asylee or Asylum Seeker
Asylum seekers meet the above definition; however, they are already present in the United States or at a port of entry. Asylum seekers can apply for asylum affirmatively with the U.S. asylum office, or defensively, before the immigration court.
There is no limit on the number of applications for asylum that can be granted every year.
The Trump Administration’s Policy Toward Refugee Admissions
In Fiscal Year 2020, which runs from October 1, 2019-September 30, 2020, the United States has capped the number of refugee admissions at 18,000. This is the lowest ceiling since the refugee resettlement process was created in 1980. For Fiscal Year 2019, the Trump administration capped admissions at 30,000, and for Fiscal Year 2018, it was capped at 45,000; however, in 2018, only 22,491 refugees were admitted. These numbers are meager when compared to the ceilings under the previous administration. Under the Obama administration, for FY 2017, the cap was 110,000; for FY 2016, the cap was 85,000, and for FYs 2013-2015, the cap was 70,000. The cap was nearly reached every year from 2013-2016, and in FY 2017, only half of the cap was met.
The reductions in the refugee caps have been part of a broader Trump policy to reduce the number of immigrants coming to the United States. Where the United States was once the worldwide leader in accepting refugees, under the Trump administration, the U.S. refugee resettlement program has been eviscerated.
If you fear persecution if returned to your home country and are interested in seeking asylum in the United States, then contact an immigration attorney immediately. Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, are experienced and dedicated to helping and guiding asylum seekers. Please feel free to call us at 510-488-1020 to see how we can help.