The Politics of American Refugee Policy

October 27, 1989

Report Outline
Special Focus

Introduction

Critics of U.S. refugee policy say the government unfairly favors those fleeing communist countries or other nations with which the United States is at odds. The Refugee Act of 1980 was meant to depoliticize the process, but as recent disputes over Soviet emigrés indicate, the legislation hasn't had the intended effect.

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Overview

Nearly 10 years after passage of the 1980 Refugee Act, U.S. refugee policy is mired in just the kind of political discord the legislation was intended to eliminate.

In an attempt to depoliticize refugee policy, the act eliminated preferences for those fleeing communist countries. Decisions about whether a person was to be admitted into the United States were to be made not on the basis of the refugee's ideology, or the ideology of his homeland, but rather because the individual could demonstrate “a well-founded fear of persecution,”

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