07 June 2010
The United States has resettled over 2.5 million refugees since 1980, more than all other resettlement countries combined.
On March 17th, 2010, the United States celebrated the 30th anniversary of The Refugee Act of 1980, which has proved to be a cornerstone of our international architecture to protect the world’s most vulnerable people – refugees. This landmark legislation is a testament to the dedication and passion of Senator Edward Kennedy and other members of Congress committed to humanitarianism, who insisted on an effective and impartial system to respond to the needs of those displaced by conflict and unable to return home.
The Refugee Act reflects the highest American values and aspirations — of compassion, generosity and leadership in serving vulnerable populations. Moreover, reliance on the support of millions of individual Americans is a fundamental component of the success that the Act has achieved. The U.S. Congress passed the legislation that created the Refugee Act, but it has ultimately been local communities that have helped to safeguard the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program — by opening their hearts, homes, and communities to refugees from around the world.
Most refugees have experienced great adversity — seeing their families and communities uprooted, injured or destroyed — and living in highly vulnerable conditions for years or even decades.
The United States has resettled over 2.5 million refugees since 1980, more than all other resettlement countries combined. Though the resettlement and integration processes are challenging, and many see friends or family members who are overwhelmed by the transition, most of those resettled in the United States ultimately adapt and thrive – an adjustment that requires enormous will, the support of solid communities, and a strong measure of endurance. Among those resettled in the United States since 1980 are Vietnamese and Lao Hmong refugees who now call California home, Iraqis who fled Baghdad and are starting new lives on the shores of Lake Michigan, and Somalis who left the arid East African landscape to restart lives in Minnesota and Maine.
Refugees have resettled in the United States for hundreds of years, and have made valuable contributions to the growth and success of our local communities, regional economies, and national institutions. As a nation, we understand that our diversity is our strength. We’ve seen time and again that our ability to integrate disparate peoples from across the globe is a model for creating a vibrant society, thriving cultural and intellectual communities, and democratic governance based on good citizenship. As a nation, we’ve made it clear that one of our foreign policy priorities is to support the world’s most vulnerable citizens, and we’ve learned that when you reach out to help another in need, that you reap great benefits.