The U.S. will take in approximately 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year following September 2015. Since 2011, when the Syrian civil war began, we’ve taken in about 1,500 refugees. While Congress cannot impose limits on the number of refugees the country expects from specific regions, it can block funding for the Department of Homeland Security and the of Department of Health and Human Services, both of which handle screening and resettlement room for refugees.
But how do refugees affect current immigration quotas, and will the influx of people escaping horrific conditions in the Middle East have an impact on how many people are allowed to legally immigrate to the U.S.?
Current Immigration Quotas: What Are the Numbers?
There is a per-country limit for immigrants coming into the U.S. Each country has its own limit, and limits are calculated each fiscal year based on the total number of family-sponsored and employment-based visas available.
There are unlimited amounts of immediate relative visas available in the family-based immigration system. In order to qualify for an immediate relative visa, a person must be a spouse, unmarried minor child or parent of a current U.S. adult citizen.
The president, after consulting with Congress, determines the numerical ceiling for refugee admissions. Refugee admissions have nothing to do with standard immigration quotas, but standard immigration quotas can change annually.
The worldwide refugee ceiling is currently set at 70,000 people. It is divided among five regions and has a little leeway built in for emergencies. The current regional allocation looks like this:
- Africa: 12,000
- East Asia: 17,000
- Europe and Central Asia: 2,000
- Latin America and the Caribbean: 5,000
- Near East and South Asia: 31,000
- Unallocated reserve: 3,000
Currently, 10,000 Syrian refugees fit within the appropriate regional allocation. However, the president has the authority to change the numbers assigned to each region without congressional approval.
It is important to know that refugees do not have an impact on legal immigration quotas. However, legal immigration quotas can – and often do – change every year. If you are thinking about immigrating to the United States, it may be in your best interest to talk to a Milwaukee immigration lawyer who can help you understand the quotas and help you submit the appropriate paperwork to ensure that the process runs smoothly.