How does the US government decide how many refugees to admit?

  • Each year in late September, the President issues a determination of the number of Refugee Admissions for the upcoming Fiscal Year (October 1st-September 30th). 
  • In that determination, the President determines the overall number of refugees, as well as sets quotas for the number of refugees from various parts of the world. 
  • This number is a ceiling, and there have been a number of years when the number of refugees admitted has been significantly lower than this ceiling.
  • In October 2016, President Obama set the ceiling for refugees at110,000. The previous year, the number of refugees was 85,000.
  • The lowest number of refugees admitted since passage of the Refugee Act of 1980 was 27,110 in 2002, while the highest number ever admitted was 207,000 in 1980.
  • The determination of refugee numbers is based on both humanitarian concerns and foreign policy, and certain groups have been excluded, such as Afghanis after 9/11 and Jews after WWII

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