Summary: H.R.2816 — 96th Congress (1979-1980)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Passed House amended (12/20/1979)

(Measure passed House, amended, roll call #755 (328-47))

Refugee Act of 1979 - =Title I: Purpose= - Declares the purposes of this Act to be to provide a permanent and systematic procedure for the admission of refugees to the United States and to provide comprehensive and uniform provisions for the effective resettlement and absorption of those refugees who are admitted.

=Title II: Admission of Refugees= - Amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to define "refugee" as any person who is: (1) outside his country of nationality (or in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which he last habitually resided), and who is unable or unwilling to return to such country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group; or (2) in special circumstances as the President, after Congressional consultation, may specify, within the country of his 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 has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Excludes from the definition of "refugee" any person who ordered, incited, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Provides for up to 50,000 annual refugee admissions for fiscal years 1980-1982, and up to 17,400 such admissions for any succeeding fiscal year.

Directs the President to report annually to the Judiciary Committees of the House and Senate regarding the foreseeable numbers of refugees in need of resettlement during the coming fiscal year, and the anticipated allocation of such refugee admissions.

Authorizes the President to exceed such 50,000 admissions level if the President, at the beginning of a fiscal year and after consultation with such Committees, determines it to be for humanitarian purposes. Stipulates that these admissions shall be allocated to groups of special concern to the United States. Requires such Committees to print the substance of such refugee consultations in the Congressional Record. Requires hearings by such Committees after the President initiates consultation prior to a determination that refugee admissions should exceed 50,000 in a particular year. Authorizes either the House or the Senate to veto a Presidential determination to admit more than 50,000 non-emergency refugees in a particular year.

Authorizes the Attorney General to admit such refugees who are not firmly resettled in a foreign country (and accompanying spouses and children) as permanent residents without first being admitted conditionally. Exempts such admissions from meeting certain other immigrant requirements (labor certification, public charge, immigrant visa, literacy, and foreign physicians).

Requires that the waiver of such requirements be in writing, and only granted after an investigation of each individual refugee. Stipulates that the Attorney General may terminate an alien's refugee status if such alien was not in fact a refugee (as defined by this Act) at the time of admission.

Defines "appropriate consultation" for purposes of this Act to mean personal discussions by Cabinet-level representatives of the President with members of such Committees to review the refugee situation or emergency refugee situation, to project the extent of possible United States participation therein, to discuss the reasons for believing that the proposed refugee admission is in the national interest, and to provide such members, with information that shall include: (1) a description of the nature of the refugee situation; (2) a description of the number of refugees who may be admitted, including proposed resettlement plans; (3) an analysis of the anticipated social, economic, and demographic impact of their admission to the United States; and (4) additional appropriate information.

Directs the Attorney General to establish a procedure for granting asylum to refugees within 60 days of enactment of this Act. Authorizes the Attorney General to terminate the grant of asylum if conditions change in the individual's home country so that such individual would no longer be subject to persecution. Entitles the spouse and children of an individual granted asylum to the same status.

Authorizes adjustment of status to permanent resident for any refugee admitted to the U.S.: (1) whose admission has not been terminated by the Attorney General; (2) who has been physically present in the U.S. for at least two years; and (3) who has not acquired permanent resident status. Provides that such status adjustment shall operate retroactively to the date of such refugee's arrival, notwithstanding any numerical limitations. Provides for up to 5,000 annual status adjustments to permanent resident for such refugees who: (1) apply for adjustment; (2) have been physically present in the United States for at least two years after being granted asylum; (3) are not firmly resettled in any other foreign country; (4) are refugees (or spouses or children of such refugees) as defined by this Act; and (5) are admissible as immigrants. Directs that any such refugee's date of admission to the United States as a permanent resident shall be retroactive (two years prior to the approval of such status adjustment date). Exempts such status adjustments from meeting certain other immigrant requirements (labor certification, public charge, immigrant visa, literacy, and foreign physicians).

Directs the Attorney General to withhold deportation or exclusion of an alien if such alien's life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Exempts any alien from such protection: (1) who participated in the persecution of others; (2) who constitutes a danger to the United States as a result of having been convicted of a particularly serious crime; (3) if there are serious reasons for considering that such alien has committed a serious non-political crime outside the U.S.; or (4) if reasonable grounds exist for suspecting such alien to be a security risk to the U.S.

Prohibits the Attorney General from paroling an alien who is a refugee into the U.S. unless there are compelling public interest reasons for so doing.

States that the provisions of this title shall take effect on October 1, 1979, except for provisions affecting those aliens admitted conditionally or paroled into the U.S. before such date. Preserves the rights of those aliens with an already established admissions priority date.

Permits the President to make the determination of expected refugee admissions required by this Act within 45 days after the date of enactment of such Act for fiscal year 1980.

=Title III: Assistance for Effective Resettlement of Refugees in the United States= - Establishes within the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare an Office of Refugee Resettlement. Charges such Office with administering Federal domestic assistance programs for refugees including programs for: (1) initial reception and placement with sponsors; (2) resettlement services; (3) reimbursement to State and local governments; and (4) other Federal grants or agreements with public or private agencies for providing refugee services.

Sets forth program goals including: (1) employment training and placement; (2) English-language training; and (3) equal opportunity to services for women. Requires a State, as a condition of receiving assistance, to submit a statewide resettlement plan and an annual report on its use of Federal funds. Directs the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to develop a system for monitoring all refugee assistance provided under this Act, including program evaluations, financial auditing, and data collection. Directs the Attorney General to provide refugee status adjustment information to the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement for compilation and evaluation. Directs the Secretaries of Labor and Education to provide each member of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, and the Director, with annual reports describing the respective department's efforts to increase refugee access to their programs.

Authorizes the Secretary of State for fiscal years 1980 and 1981, and the Director starting in fiscal year 1982, to establish and run, a program of initial refugee resettlement in the U.S. Requires the Director to develop programs and make arrangements for English-language and job training for refugees in the U.S. Authorizes the Secretary of State to implement such programs for refugees awaiting entry into the United States. Authorizes the Director to make arrangements with other Federal agencies for temporary emergency care of refugees in the U.S., including the establishment of processing centers. Establishes procedures for the medical care and screening of such refugees.

Authorizes the Director to: (1) make grants to, or enter into contracts with, public or private nonprofit agencies to provide employment services, language training, and health and social services; (2) provide for special education services for refugee children where a demonstrated special need has been shown; and (3) provide for child welfare services (including foster care payments) for 48 months after arrival, except for unaccompanied children who will remain eligible for such services till age 18. Makes such Office legally and financially responsible for such unaccompanied children until they are placed under the coverage of State child welfare laws. Requires that a list be maintained of all such unaccompanied children who have entered the U.S. after April 1, 1975.

Authorizes the Director to reimburse States for 100 percent of their costs in providing cash and medical assistance to refugees for the first four years after their arrival in the U.S. Requires refugees receiving cash assistance (after their first 60 days in the U.S.) to register with appropriate employment agencies and accept appropriate employment offers. Directs the Director to provide language training to such refugees receiving cash assistance.

Authorizes medical services to be provided to any refugee, for one year after arrival, who does not qualify for assistance under title XIX of the Social Security Act (because of any resources or income requirement) if the Director determines that: (1) such medical assistance will avoid a burden on State or local government, or encourage economic self-sufficiency; and (2) the refugee meets alternate financial and income requirements.

Requires the Director to submit to each member of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees semi- annual reports (after an initial fiscal year 1979 report). Requires the Secretary to report to the Congress within one year of enactment of this Act an analysis of: (1) resettlement systems used by other countries; (2) the possibility of using a system other than the welfare system to provide refugee assistance; and (3) alternative resettlement strategies.

Authorizes necessary appropriations for fiscal years 1980 and 1981.

States that this title shall be effective as of October 30, 1979.

Waives the four-year limit on child welfare, cash, and medical reimbursements through fiscal year 1981.

Increases the Emergency Migration and Refugee Fund's ceiling from $25,000,000 to $50,000,000.

Repeals the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1975 (as amended).

=Title IV: Social Services for Certain Applicants for Asylum= - Authorizes the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement to reimburse State and local public agencies for expenses incurred in providing social services to aliens: (1) who have applied for asylum before November 1, 1979; (2) who have not been granted asylum; and (3) with respect to whom a legally enforceable order of deportation has not been entered.

Authorizes the Attorney General to grant such an alien permission to engage in employment in the United States.

=Title V: Office of Refugee Policy= - Establishes in the Executive Office of the President an Office of Refugee Policy. Provides for the appointment by the President of a Director of such Office. Sets forth the responsibilities of the Director.