The Refugee Act and Refugees’ Rights

aneen became interested in immigration law at the age of twelve when she learned that her brother-in-law had come to the United States as a refugee.

His story opened her eyes to the very serious problems that many around the world face on a daily basis. She became further interested in immigrants, which led to her becoming specialized in immigration law. In her article, she speaks about the Refugee Act and the rights it gives to those seeking to move to the US.

There has been an uprise of a negative outlook on immigration recently; can you share your thoughts on this?

I think any recent negative outlook in immigration can really be attributed to a lack of understanding of immigration law.  For example, people don’t realize that the young men and women who have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) not only have excellent characters, but they are extremely hard workers.  You have had to excel in school and have almost no criminal history to qualify for DACA.  It is a self-selecting group of young men and women.  The same is true for those who have Temporary Protected Status (TPS).  If you have two misdemeanors or one felony you lose your status.  TPS and DACA holders are the exceptional type of immigrants that we need in this country.

TPS and DACA holders are the exceptional type of immigrants that we need in this country.

Can you briefly summarize the Refuge Act and what rights it gives to refugees?

The Refugee Act of 1980 was a reaction to the aftermath of the Vietnam War, where it became clear that there was a need for change in American policy due to the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians who were fleeing political chaos and danger in their home countries. Prior to the Refugee Act, the law was restrictive with regards to refugee admission, and Presidential action was used to bring some 300,000 refugees to the United States between 1975 and 1979.  Due to the restrictive nature of the law, Congress decided to establish a more regular, clear and flexible system with regards to refugee resettlement.

The Refugee Act of 1980 was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter, and it amended the earlier Immigration and Nationality Act and the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act. It raised the annual ceiling for refugees from 17,400 to 50,000, created a process for reviewing and adjusting the refugee ceiling to meet emergencies, and required annual consultation between Congress and the President.

Until recently, the United States offered refuge each year to more people than all other nations combined.

The Act also changed the definition of “refugee” to a person with a “well-founded fear of persecution,” a standard established by United Nations conventions and protocols. It also funded a new Office of U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs and an Office of Refugee Resettlement and built on already existing public-private partnerships that helped refugees settle and adjust to life in their new country.

Refugees have the right to live and work permanently in the United States.  After a year of being a refugee they can apply for permanent residency.  After five years of permanent residency they can apply for U.S. Citizenship.

In your opinion, what laws or regulations are often too harsh and restricting? Do you believe these should be changed?

Until recently, the United States offered refuge each year to more people than all other nations combined. But the current administration has drastically reduced the maximum number of refugees that can enter the United States. So many people are forced to leave their homes and travel directly to the country in which they seek “safe haven” and to apply for political asylum.  This change in policy has created a huge backlog of cases for our court system to address.  In addition, this administration implemented a policy that would have forced asylum seekers to wait in indefinitely in unstable conditions on the Mexican border.  District Court Judge Richard Seeborg of the Northern District of California ordered a preliminary injunction in the lawsuit challenging the Migration Protection Protocols and ended the policy of forcing asylum seekers to remain in Mexico.  This policy was harmful to asylum seekers and their ability to make informed and viable claims.


Janeen Hicks Pierre, Esq.

Pierre Law, P.L.L.C

N.C. Board Certified Specialist in Immigration Law

P.O. Box 25773

Charlotte, NC 28229

301 McCullough Dr, Suite 400

Charlotte NC, 28262

Phone: (704) 665-7009

Fax: (704) 909-2701



My name is Janeen Hicks Pierre and I am a NC Board Certified Specialist in Immigration Law.  I have been practicing immigration law exclusively for almost fourteen years.  My passion for immigration law comes from my interest in traveling and from the many immigrants in my family.  I have had my own small practice for over four years.


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