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U.S. Department of State

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Washington, DC
November 25, 2002

Refugee Admissions Program for Latin America and the Caribbean


Since 1975, over 86,000 refugees from Latin American and Caribbean countries have been offered resettlement in the U.S. Over 50,000 have been from Cuba, with other significant representation from Haiti, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.

Cuban Program

At present, virtually all refugee processing in the region is based in Cuba. As of September 9, 1994, all refugee admissions of Cubans are considered a part of the U.S.-Cuba Bilateral Migration Agreement. The Agreement provides for the approval of at least 20,000 Cubans for legal admission to the U.S. annually, in a combination of immigrants, parolees, and refugees. The majority of Cubans admitted as refugees have been political prisoners or forced labor conscripts, most of whom served sentences in the 1960s and 1970s. The program was expanded in 1991 to include human rights activists, displaced professionals, and others. In addition to individuals processed in-country, Cubans outside Cuba may be considered for resettlement under Priority One if referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or an American Embassy.

Cubans eligible to apply for admission to the U.S. through the in-country refugee program under Priority Two 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
  • Others who appear to have a credible claim that they will face persecution as defined in the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.
Colombian Pilot Programs

Beginning in FY 2002, PRM began the development of two small pilot programs to resettle particularly vulnerable Colombians refugees in Ecuador and Costa Rica. PRM is also working with UNHCR to increase resettlement staff in the region and anticipates several hundred resettlement referrals from their offices in 2003.

FY 2003 Admissions Program

The FY 2003 ceiling for refugee admissions from Latin America and the Caribbean is 2,500. Because of disruptions in processing and new security requirements imposed on the U.S. refugee admissions program in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, we were only able to admit 1, 929 refugees, primarily Cubans, from Latin America. We hope to improve processing in FY 2003 and admit more refugees from the region.


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