It gives me great pleasure to sign into law S. 643, the Refugee Act of 1980, which revises provisions for refugee admissions and assistance. This legislation is an important contribution to our efforts to strengthen U.S. refugee policies and programs.
The Refugee Act reflects our long tradition as a haven for people uprooted by persecution and political turmoil. In recent years, the number of refugees has increased greatly. Their suffering touches all and challenges us to help them, often under difficult circumstances.
The Refugee Act improves procedures and coordination to respond to the often massive and rapidly changing refugee problems that have developed recently.
It establishes a new admissions policy that will permit fair and equitable treatment of refugees in the United States, regardless of their country of origin. It allows us to change annual admissions levels in response to conditions overseas, policy considerations, and resources available for resettlement. The new procedures will also ensure thorough consideration of admissions questions by both the Congress and the administration.
Moreover, the Refugee Act will help refugees in this country become self-sufficient and contributing members of society. Until now, resettlement has been done primarily by private persons and organizations. They have done an admirable job, but the large numbers of refugees arriving now create new strains and problems. Clearly, the Federal Government must play an expanded role in refugee programs.
The Refugee Act is the result of close cooperation between the administration and the Congress, with important support from those who work directly with refugees in State and local governments and private groups. Everyone who worked so long on its passage can be proud of this contribution to improved international and domestic refugee programs and to our humanitarian traditions.