"A refugee is a person fleeing his or her 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. Typically, the annual number of refugees that can be admitted into the United States, known as the refugee ceiling, and the allocation of these numbers by region are set by the President after consultation with Congress at the start of each fiscal year. For FY2012, the worldwide refugee ceiling is 76,000, with 73,000 admissions numbers allocated among the regions of the world and 3,000 numbers comprising an unallocated reserve. An unallocated reserve is to be used if, and where, a need develops for refugee slots in excess of the allocated numbers. The FY2012 regional allocations are, as follows: Africa (12,000), East Asia (18,000), Europe and Central Asia (2,000), Latin America/Caribbean (5,500), and Near East/South Asia (35,500). Overseas processing of refugees is conducted through a system of three priorities for admission. Priority 1 comprises cases involving persons facing compelling security concerns. Priority 2 comprises cases involving persons from specific groups of special humanitarian concern to the United States (e.g., Iranian religious minorities). Priority 3 comprises family reunification cases involving close relatives of persons admitted as refugees or granted asylum. […] The Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR) administers an initial transitional assistance program for temporarily dependent refugees and Cuban/Haitian entrants. This report will be updated as major developments occur."
CRS Report for Congress, RL31269