Statement from President Carter Commemorating the Anniversary of the Refugee Act of 1980

Americans know the heart of the stranger. The colonies that became the United States were founded by refugees from religious persecution, and our religious traditions call on us to welcome the stranger.

During my presidency, the world faced the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War as people fled political persecution and crushing poverty in many places. Desperate refugees were drowning and dying from exposure at our doorstep, yet the United States lacked a legal structure to receive them in an orderly way.

In response, Congress passed the bipartisan Refugee Act of 1980, which I signed into law on March 17. The law established a framework to resettle refugees and extend asylum to those fleeing persecution. Implementation of the new law relied not just on the U.S. government, but also on civil society and faith-based communities in a public-private partnership.

In the final year of my presidency, the United States resettled 207,112 refugees. Since then, we have resettled more than 3 million refugees and granted asylum to over 700,000 people. Today, millions are taxpaying Americans who have contributed greatly to our communities and to our economy.

On this 41st anniversary of the Refugee Act, we as Americans can reflect on our decision as a nation to welcome the stranger and renew our commitment to remaining a beacon of hope for freedom-loving people everywhere.



Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.

A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.