Making Room for Those in Danger

The Refugee Act of 1980 is now on temporary display in the West Gallery of the National Archives Building. Photo by National Archives Photographer Jeffrey Reed.

The Refugee Act of 1980 is now on temporary display in the West Gallery of the National Archives Building. Photo by National Archives Photographer Jeffrey Reed.

At the end of the Vietnam War, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians fled political chaos and physical danger in their homelands. Between 1975 and 1979, some 300,000 of these refugees were admitted to the United States through Presidential action. The law at the time restricted refugee admissions, and many members of Congress wanted to establish a more regular system of immigration and resettlement.

In the South China Sea, crewmen of the amphibious cargo ship USS Durham (LKA-114) take Vietnamese refugees aboard a small craft. The refugees will be transferred later by mechanized landing craft (LCM) to the freighter Transcolorado., 4/3/1975. General Records of the Department of the Navy, National Archives Identifier 558518

In the South China Sea, crewmen of the amphibious cargo ship USS Durham (LKA-114) take Vietnamese refugees aboard a small craft. The refugees will be transferred later by mechanized landing craft (LCM) to the freighter Transcolorado., 4/3/1975. General Records of the Department of the Navy, National Archives Identifier 558518

The Refugee Act of 1980 raised the annual ceiling for refugees to 50,000, created a process for reviewing and adjusting the refugee ceiling to meet emergencies, and required annual consultation between Congress and the President. The law changed the definition of “refugee” to a person with a “well-founded fear of persecution,” a standard established by United Nations conventions and protocols. It also funded a new Office of U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs and an Office of Refugee Resettlement and built on already existing public-private partnerships that helped refugees settle and adjust to life in their new country.

A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to revise the procedures for the admission of refugees, to amend the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 to establish a more uniform basis for the provision of assistance to refugees, and for other purposes, page one (Public Law 96-212—The Refugee Act of 1980), approved March 17, 1980 National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government

A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to revise the procedures for the admission of refugees, to amend the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 to establish a more uniform basis for the provision of assistance to refugees, and for other purposes, page one (Public Law 96-212—The Refugee Act of 1980), approved March 17, 1980
National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government

Signature page of The Refugee Act of 1980, approved March 17, 1980 National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government.

Signature page of The Refugee Act of 1980, approved March 17, 1980
National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government.

View all pages of the Refugee Act of 1980 on the National Archives’ Flickr account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/sets/72157661462319371

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8 Responses to Making Room for Those in Danger

  1. M'Lisa Whitney says:

    Very timely article. It usually takes a historian to make the world stop and reflect. Thank you for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. Doris Hamburg says:

    Thank you so much for exhibiting and posting these documents and photos; good to remember our nation’s actions at that very difficult time.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. dancingnana says:

    So glad that you posted this. It should remind some of us about our history. I don’t know that this will change many minds.

    Like

  5. Pingback: Making Room for Those in Danger | taygete

  6. Caroline Oyama says:

    Thanks David, great timing. Time to cut the hysteria. As part of a family that was interred in Arkansas before I joined it, I am only too cognisant of the lifetime scars of this sort of discrimination.

    Like

  7. Lenore says:

    Thank you. I could have read this and continued on to something else, but I feel so strongly about this. I wish there was something I could do to help people see how important it is to help these poor people. T
    hen I realized that a simple thank you can help spur you on and perhaps help other readers to do even a small thing, like this. If each person did even a small thing it would add up to a monumental thing. Again thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Tom McAnear says:

    Immigrants and refugees made the U.S. what it is today. It is important to help anyone we can and especially if we were responsible for their becoming refugees in the first place. Another long tradition in the U.S. was a non-interventionist foreign policy.

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