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Fact Sheet
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Washington, DC
February 14, 2008

Refugee Admissions Program for Latin America and the Caribbean


Since 1975, over 90,000 refugees from Latin American and Caribbean countries have been resettled in the United States. Over 61,000 have come from Cuba, with other significant numbers from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Colombia. Refugee admissions for the region were 3,272 in FY 2006 and 2,981 in FY 2007.

Cuban Program

At present, the bulk of U.S. refugee processing in the region is conducted in Cuba. The refugee program is a component of the U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords under which the U.S. has agreed to issue a minimum of 20,000 travel documents annually to Cubans for permanent resettlement in the United States. Approximately 3,000 Cubans arrive in the United States each year through the refugee program. Cubans eligible to apply for admission to the United States through the in-country refugee program under the Priority 2 (P-2) category include:

  • Former political prisoners;
  • Members of persecuted religious minorities;
  • Human rights activists;
  • Forced labor conscripts during the period 1965-1968;
  • Persons deprived of their professional credentials or subjected to other disproportionately harsh or discriminatory treatment resulting from their perceived or actual political or religious beliefs; and
  • Persons who have experienced or fear harm because of their relationship – family or social – to someone who falls under one of the preceding categories.

Cubans outside Cuba may be considered for resettlement if referred by the United Nationals High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or a U.S. Embassy.

Colombian Program

In FY 2002, the U.S. began to resettle vulnerable Colombian refugees located in Ecuador and Costa Rica. In FY 2003, 149 Colombian refugees were admitted to the United States for resettlement, and in FY 2004, another 577 Colombian refugees were admitted. However, starting in 2005, admission of Colombian refugees declined due to provisions of the Patriot and Real ID Acts that were intended to prohibit entry to individuals who provided “material support to terrorists” which include the Fuerzas Armdas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), El Ejercito de Liberacion National (ELN) and paramilitary organizations. This provision applies to Colombian refugees who had been forced to provide resources to these organizations, even under duress. In FY 2005, 323 Colombians were admitted for resettlement; 115 in FY 2006, and 54 in FY2007. However, due to recent legislative and administrative changes to this statute, we expect to see an increase in Colombian admissions, with some 100 Colombian refugees expected to arrive in the United States during FY 2008.

FY 2008 Admissions Program

The FY 2008 ceiling for refugee admissions from Latin America and the Caribbean is 3,000. Of these, the majority will be Cubans processed through the in-country program.

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