The United States Refugee Act of 1980 (Public Law 96-212) is an amendment to the earlier Immigration and Nationality Act and the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act, and was created to provide a permanent and systematic procedure for the admission to the United States of refugees of special humanitarian concern to the U.S., and to provide comprehensive and uniform provisions for the effective resettlement and absorption of those refugees who are admitted. The act was completed on March 3, 1980, was signed by President Jimmy Carter on March 17, 1980 and became effective on April 1, 1980. This was the first comprehensive amendment of U.S. general immigration laws designed to face up to the realities of modern refugee situations by stating a clear-cut national policy and providing a flexible mechanism to meet the rapidly shifting developments of today's world policy. The main objectives of the act were to create a new definition of refugee based on the one created at the UN Convention and Protocol on the Status of Refugees, raise the limitation from 17,400 to 50,000 refugees admitted each fiscal year, provide emergency procedures for when that number exceeds 50,000, and to establish the Office of U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs and the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Most importantly, it established explicit procedures on how to deal with refugees in the U.S. by creating a uniform and effective resettlement and absorption policy.
This summary is from Wikipedia.
The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.
2/22/1980--Conference report filed in House.
(Conference report filed in House, H. Rept. 96-781) Refugee Act of 1980 - =Title I: Purpose= - Declares the purposes of this Act to be to provide a permanent and systematic procedure for the admission of refugees of special humanitarian concern 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 through 1982. Authorizes the President to exceed such 50,000 admissions level if, at the beginning of a fiscal year and after appropriate consultation, he determines it to be for humanitarian purposes. Provides that these admissions shall be allocated to groups of special concern to the United States. 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. Authorizes the Attorney General to 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. Directs the President to report annually to the Judiciary Committees of the House and Senate regarding the foreseeable number of refugees in need of resettlement during the coming fiscal year, and the anticipated allocation of such refugee admissions. Requires appropriate consultation between Presidential representatives and such Committees, and directs such Committees to print the substance of such consultations in the Congressional Record. 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 and allocation of of refugees to be admitted, and an analysis of conditions within their home countries; (3) an analysis of the anticipated social, economic, and demographic impact of their admission to the United States; (4) a description of the proposed resettlement plans, including estimated costs involved; (5) a description of the extent to which other countries will admit and assist in such refugee resettlement; (6) an analysis of the impact of United States participation in the resettlement of such refugees on United States foreign policy; and (7) any other appropriate information. Directs the Attorney General to establish a procedure for granting asylum to refugees. 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 one year; 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 one year 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 (one year 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). Revises the quarterly and yearly limitations on immigration to provide that exclusive of special immigrants, immediate relatives, and refugees (and accompanying spouses and children) admissions for any of the first three quarters of a fiscal year shall not exceed 72,000, and shall not exceed 270,000 in any one such year. Raises from 20 to 26 percent (from a country's overall limit) the number of annual second priority (spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents) immigrant preference visas. 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 nonpolitical 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 apply to fiscal years beginning with the fiscal year beginning 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. Sets forth effective dates for various provisions of this title. =Title III: United States Coordinator for Refugee Affairs and Assistance for Effective Resettlement of Refugees in the United States - Part A - United States Coordinator for Refugee Affairs= - Directs the President to appoint, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, a United States Coordinator for Refugee Affairs, to have the rank of Ambassador-at-Large. Sets forth such Coordinator's responsibilities, including: (1) the development and coordination of overall United States refugee admission and resettlement policy; (2) the design of an overall budget strategy to provide individual agencies with policy guidance in the preparation of refugee-related budget requests, and to provide the Office of Management and Budget with an overview of such budget matters; (3) the presentation to the Congress of the Administration's refugee policy; (4) representation and negotiation, under the direction of the Secretary of State, with foreign governments and international organizations; (5) liason work between the Federal Government and voluntary organizations, governors, mayors, and others involved in refugee relief; and (6) reviewing related Federal procedures and guidelines. Directs the Secretaries of Labor and Education to provide the Coordinator with regular reports concerning their departments' refugee assistance programs. =Part B - Assistance for Effective Resettlement of Refugees in the United States= - Establishes within the Department of Health and Human Services an Office of Refugee Resettlement. Directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to appoint a Director of such Office. States the function of the Office to be the funding and administration, in cooperation with the Coordinator, of Federal refugee programs. Requires the Director in making available assistance, to give consideration to: (1) employment training and placement; (2) English-language training; (3) insuring that cash assistance is made available to refugees in such a manner as not to discourage their economic self-sufficiency; and (4) 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, together with the Secretary of State, 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 for compilation and evaluation. 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. Directs the President to determine which agency is best suited to administer such program (including whether the Director should administer it), and to report to the Congress regarding such determination by March 1, 1981. Authorizes the Director to develop programs and make arrangements for English-language and job training for refugees in the U.S. Authorizes the Secretary to implement such program for refugees awaiting entry into the United States. Authorizes the Secretary, in consultation with the Coordinator, 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, English 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 36 months after arrival, except for unaccompanied children who will remain eligible for such services until 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 three 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 English language training to such refugees receiving cash assistance. Authorizes the provision of medical services 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 Secretary, not later than the January 31 following the end of each fiscal year beginning with fiscal year 1980, to submit reports to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees containing: (1) a labor profile for refugees who have entered the U.S. since May 1975; (2) a geographic description of refugee location; (3) a summary of the location and status of unaccompanied refugee children; (4) a description of the activities and expenditures of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, States, voluntary agencies, and sponsors; and (5) an evaluation of services provided under this Act. Requires the Secretary, in consultation with the Coordinator, 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 desirability 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, 1981, and 1982. Amends the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 to: (1) increase the Emergency Migration and Refugee Fund's ceiling from $25,000 to $50,000; (2) authorize funds to be used for contributions to the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other relevant international organizations; and (3) eliminate the use of such funds for State or local agencies, transportation and resettlement, and employment and refresher training. Repeals the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1975. States that this title shall be effective as of October 1, 1979. Waives the four-year limit on child welfare, cash, and medical reimbursements through April 1, 1981. Provides, with respect to Cuban refugees who entered the U.S. and were receiving assistance under the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 before October 1, 1978, reimbursement of: (1) 75 percent in fiscal year 1980; (2) 60 percent in fiscal year 1981; (3) 45 percent in fiscal year 1982; and (4) 25 percent in fiscal year 1983 of the non-Federal costs of providing cash and medical assistance to such refugees. Provides, with respect to such refugees, 100 percent reimbursement in any fiscal year of the non-Federal costs of supplemental security income payments paid under title XVI of the Social Security Act as of September 30, 1978. =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.