More than a Wall: The Rise and Fall of US Asylum and Refugee Policy

Ruth Ellen Wassem
Date of Publication: 
August, 2020
Source Organization: 

This article reviews the history of U.S. policy towards refugees and asylum seekers, from primarily reliance on executive actions (such as parole) before and after the two world wars, through the introduction of a formal refugee admissions regime after passage of the Refugee Act of 1980. That history was heavily influenced by U.S. geopolitical concerns, particularly during the cold war when persons fleeing communism were much more likely to gain status in the U.S. than those fleeing violent civil wars in countries controlled by U.S.-backed governments. The article briefly summarizes some of the policies implemented by the Trump administration that have “sent US humanitarian protection policy to an unprecedented nadir.” The author also includes an analysis of public opinion on refugees and asylees, and notes that, in the past 75 years, a majority of Americans have rarely supported the admission of refugees and asylees during a refugee crisis. During the Trump years, however, opposition to such admissions has decreased. The author concludes by observing that “generous humanitarian policies require energetic civic engagement and steadfast legislative efforts.”

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Wassem, R. (2020, August). More than a Wall: The Rise and Fall of US Asylum and Refugee Policy. Journal on Migration and Human Security.