To qualify as a refugee, a person must meet the following definition from Section 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA):

“any person who… is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion….”

Here are four things to remember about immigration benefits available to refugees:

  • Refugees (as distinguished from asylum grantees) receive a broad range of benefits and services (e.g. complete furnishing for free or subsidized housing) that are not available to U.S. citizens who are homeless and indigent.
  • There are still significant numbers of aliens resettled as refugees who are in fact admitted under the Lautenberg Amendment and thus do not have to meet the evidentiary standards for establishing status under INA 207. The related Specter Amendment includes Iranian nationals in this special category. Congress has reauthorized the loopholes annually in the 1970s.
  • Only refugees who are designated as eligible for a presidentially designated “priority program” are offered resettlement. The third priority for refugee selection (P-3) is referred to by the Department of State as the “Anchor Family Program” because it is almost entirely derivatives of previously settled refugees, justified on the basis of “family unity” rather than protection from persecution. For example, adult children of previously settled refugees are in this priority category due to the CSPA legislation.
  • Entrants on certain Special Immigrant Visas also receive a high level of public benefits similar to that granted to refugees.