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“For Fear of Persecution”: Displaced Salvadorans and U.S. Refugee Policy in the 1980s

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 July 2011

Stephen Macekura*
Affiliation:
University of Virginia

Abstract

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Copyright
Copyright © Donald Critchlow and Cambridge University Press 2011

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References

NOTES

1. Tempo, Carl Bon, Americans at the Gate: The United States and Refugees During the Cold War (Princeton, 2008)Google Scholar, esp. chaps. 1–6.

2. Public Law 96-212, “Refugee Act of 1980,” United States Statutes at Large, 1980, vol. 94, part 1 (Washington, D.C., 1981).

3. Ibid.

4. The best examples of this burgeoning field are Bon Tempo, Americans at the Gate, and Loescher, Gil and Scanlan, John A., Calculated Kindness: Refugee and America’s Half-Open Door: 1945 to the Present (New York, 1986).Google Scholar

5. Ngai, Mae M., Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Princeton, 2004)Google Scholar; Tichenor, Daniel J., Dividing Lines: The Politics of Immigration Control in America (Princeton, 2002)Google Scholar; Zolberg, Aristide R., A Nation by Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America (Cambridge, Mass., 2006).Google Scholar

6. Bon Tempo, Americans at the Gate, offers the best example. See his introduction for a more thorough discussion of the historiography of refugee policy, international relations, and American political history.

7. Ibid., 173–79.

8. “Universal Declaration of Human Rights Remarks at a White House Meeting Commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the Declaration’s Signing,” 6 December 1978, Public Papers of the President: Jimmy Carter 1978: Book II. (online) <http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=30264> (accessed 12 October 2008).

9. For more on the evolution of refugee policy during the Cold War and the development of this definition, see Bon Tempo, Americans at the Gate, chaps. 2–6.

10. For a detailed legislative history of the 1980 Act, see Loescher and Scanlan, Calculated Kindness, chap. 9; Kennedy, Edward M., “Refugee Act of 1980,” International Migration Review 15, no. 1/2 (Spring–Summer 1981): 141–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Bon Tempo, Americans at the Gate, chap. 7.

11. Public Law 96–212, “Refugee Act of 1980,” United States Statutes at Large, 1980, vol. 94, part 1 (Washington, D.C., 1981).

12. “Refugee” is a different legal category than “asylum.” Foreign nationals living outside the United States apply for “refugee” status; foreign nationals within the United States apply for “asylum” status. Unless otherwise notes, this article focuses on refugees. For more on this distinction and the 1980 Refugee Act, see Bon Tempo, Americans at the Gate, 178–79.

13. Carl Bon Tempo, Americans at the Gate, 177–79.

14. Schoultz, Lars, “Central America and the Politicization of U.S. Immigration Policy,” in Western Hemisphere Immigration and United States Foreign Policy, ed. Mitchell, Christopher (University Park, Pa., 1992), 204.Google Scholar

15. Pear, Robert, “U.S. Is Giving Nicaraguan Refugees a 3-Month Extension for Stay Here,” New York Times, 1 July 1980, A17.Google Scholar

16. Kagan, Robert, A Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977–1990 (New York, 996), 102–4.Google Scholar For overviews of American foreign policy toward El Salvador in the late 1970s and 1980s, see Arnson, Cynthia, El Salvador: A Revolution Confronts the United States (Washington, D.C., 1982)Google Scholar; and Bonner, Raymond, Weakness and Deceit: U.S. Policy and El Salvador (New York, 1984).Google Scholar

17. Loescher and Scanlan, Calculated Kindness, 171.

18. Arnson, El Salvador, 50–53, and Bonner, Weakness and Deceit, 199.

19. Cannon, Lou, “Reagan Is Conciliatory in Foreign Policy Statement,” Washington Post, 18 March 1980, A4.Google Scholar

20. Speech reprinted in Skinner, Kiron K., Anderson, Annelise, and Anderson, Martin, eds., Reagan, In His Own Hand (New York, 2001), 485.Google Scholar

21. Lescaze, Lee, “President Approves Aid for Nicaragua: Carter Approves Aid Package of $75 Million for Nicaragua,” Washington Post, 13 September 1980, A1.Google Scholar

22. “U.S. Returns Illegal Immigrants Who Are Fleeing Salvadoran War,” New York Times, 2 March 1981, A1. See also Arnson, El Salvador, 57–62, for more on the Christmas murders.

23. Salvadorans Held on Coast as Aliens Ask Reagan for Asylum,” New York Times, 22 July 1981, A8; Mary Thornton, “Refusing Asylum to Salvadorans May Violate Pact, UN Probe Finds,” Washington Post, 31 January 1982, A17.

24. Department of State, “White Paper on El Salvador,” 23 February 1981.

25. Quoted in Lafeber, Walter, Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America (New York, 1983), 271.Google Scholar For more on the Reagan administration’s strategy in Latin America, see LaFeber’s introduction and Kagan, A Twilight Struggle, introduction.

26. “Central America, 1981,” Report to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives (Washington, D.C., 1981), 22–29.

27. Department of State, “White Paper on El Salvador,” 23 February 1981.

28. Spickard, Paul, Almost All Aliens: Immigration, Race, Colonialism in American History and Identity (New York, 2007), chap. 9.Google Scholar

29. On Indochinese refugees, see Clymer, Kenton, “Jimmy Carter, Human Rights, and Cambodia,” Diplomatic History 27, no. 2 (2003): 245–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar On the Haitians and the Mariel boatlift, see Bon Tempo, Americans at the Gate, 179–84.

30. Quoted in Bon Tempo, Americans at the Gate, 169.

31. “U.S. Returns Illegal Immigrants Who Are Fleeing Salvadoran War,” New York Times, 2 March 1981, A1.

32. Department of State Bulletin, October 1981, 21.

33. Harsch, Jonathan, “Battling for US Immigration Reform,” Christian Science Monitor, 27 January 1982, 12.Google Scholar

34. Bonner, Weakness and Deceit, 76.

35. Department of State Bulletin, October 1981, 21.

36. “U.S. Policy in El Salvador, Political Asylum for Salvadoran Refugees in the United States and the U.S. Contribution to UNHCR,” nonclassified letter, 9 March 1982, 2 pp. (online) <http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com/home.do> (accessed 12 September 2008). On the whole, this article relies heavily on newspapers and published primary-source material because much of the Reagan administration’s papers on refugee policy remain classified.

37. Quoted in Bibler Coutin, Susan, Nations of Emigrants: Shifting Boundaries of Citizenship in El Salvador and the United States (Ithaca, 2007), 4849.Google Scholar

38. Thornton, Mary, “Refusing Asylum to Salvadorans May Violate Pact, U.N. Probe Finds,” Washington Post, 31 January 1982, A17.Google Scholar

39. Department of State, “Migration and Refugee Assistance, FY1983,” February 1982. (online) <http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com/home.do> (accessed 12 September 2008).

40. Thornton, Mary, “Alien Arrests Rise at Mexican Border,” Washington Post, 18 January 1983, A9.Google Scholar

41. Poll cited in Cristina Garcia, Maria, Seeking Refuge: Central American Migration to Mexico, the United States, and Canada (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2006), 92.Google Scholar

42. Gallup/Newsweek Poll, June 1984; Gallup/Newsweek Poll, June 1984. (online) <http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/data_access/ipoll/ipoll.html> (accessed 18 February 2010); Associated Press/Media General Poll, February 1985. (online) <http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/data_access/ipoll/ipoll.html> (accessed 18 February 2010).

43. Hornblower, Margot and Tyler, Patrick E., “House Panel Votes Ban on U.S. Aid in Nicaraguan War,” Washington Post, 13 April 1983, A18.Google Scholar

44. Quoted in State Department Bulletin, September 1982, 44.

45. “Reagan on Central America: Democratic Response,” CQ Electronic Library, CQ Historic Documents Series Online Edition, hsdc83-0000112496. Originally published in Historic Documents of 1983 (Washington, D.C., 1984). (online) http://library.cqpress.com/historicdocuments/hsdc83-0000112496 (accessed 18 October 2008).

46. Henry Kissinger, “Report of the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America,” January 1984.

47. Schoultz, “Central America and the Politicization of U.S. Immigration Policy,” 214–15.

48. Sanctuary Movement activists made numerous appearances before Congress. Three examples of their testimonies can be found in “Special Fact-Finding Report by the National Labor Committee in Support of Democracy and Human Rights in El Salvador,” printed in Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations, Committee of Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, 26 July 1983 (Washington, D.C., 1984); “Testimonies by the Refugees in San Salvador, July 1983,” printed in Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations, Committee of Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, 26 July 1983 (Washington, D.C., 1984); “HR 4447, Extended Voluntary Departure for Salvadorans,” Hearings Before the Subcommittee on the Rules of the House (Washington, D.C., 1985).

49. For more on the Sanctuary Movement, see Bibler Coutin, Susan, The Culture of Protest: Religious Activism and the U.S. Sanctuary Movement (Boulder, 1993)Google Scholar; Simcox, David E., “Overview: A Time of Reform and Reappraisal,” in U.S. Immigration in the 1980s: Reappraisal and Reform, ed. Simcox, David E. (Boulder, 1988), 5557Google Scholar; “US Group Aidesteps Immigration Laws to Aid Salvadorans,”Christian Science Monitor, 19 March 1982, 5.

50. “HR 4447, Extended Voluntary Departure for Salvadorans,” Hearings Before the Subcommittee on the Rules of the House (Washington, D.C., 1985), 4–5.

51. Quoted in Schoultz, “Central America and the Politicization of U.S. Immigration Policy,” 215.

52. “Special Fact-Finding Report by the National Labor Committee in Support of Democracy and Human Rights in El Salvador,” printed in Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations, Committee of Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, 26 July 1983 (Washington, D.C., 1984), 146.

53. “Refugee Problems in Central America,” Staff Report, United States Senate, Subcommittee on Immigration and Refugee Policy, Committee on the Judiciary (Washington, D.C., 1984).

54. “Report of an Ecumenical Delegation on the Refugees and the Displaced in El Salvador,” reprinted in ibid.

55. “Testimonies by the Refugees in San Salvador, July 1983,” reprinted in ibid., 161.

56. Ibid., 38.

57. Department of State Bulletin, September 1984, 48–49.

58. Department of State, Bureau for Refugee Programs, World Refugee Report, September 1985, 53–60, 118–19.

59. Schoultz, “Central America and the Politicization of U.S. Immigration Policy,” 205–7; Department of State, Bureau for Refugee Programs, World Refugee Report, September 1985, 53–60, 118–19.

60. Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Immigration and Refugee Policy on the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, March 13, 1984” (Washington, D.C., 1985), 25–28.

61. The scholarship on the rise of the conservative movement in the late twentieth century is large and growing. For a look at the Reagan revolution and the role of conservatism in racial and immigration politics, see, for example, Critchlow, Donald T., Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman’s Crusade (Princeton, 2005)Google Scholar; Gerstle, Gary, American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, 2002)Google Scholar, epilogue; Davison Hunter, James, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America: Making Sense of the Battles over the Family, Art, Education, Law, and Politics (New York, 1991)Google Scholar; Wilentz, Sean, The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974–2008 (New York, 2008).Google Scholar

62. Bon Tempo, Americans at the Gate, 169–70.

63. “Helms is Assailed by Rival on Foreign Stands,” New York Times, 27 May 1984, 29.

64. Bon Tempo, Americans at the Gate, 5–7. Helms’s prescription for the conflict in El Salvador—giving power to death-squad leader and former military officer Robert D’Aubuisson, whom former Ambassador Robert White called a “psychopathic killer”—even outflanked on the right the Reagan administration with regard to policy toward El Salvador. He drew the ire of the administration for his support of D’Aubuisson, but he did not wholly discredit the senator’s reelection campaign. On this controversy, see Link, Righteous Warrior, 245–50.

65. LeMoyne, James, “Central America’s Displaced and Displeased,” New York Times, 2 June 1985, E5.Google Scholar

66. “Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Rules of the House, June 20, 1984” (Washington, D.C., 1984), 3. For more on the IRCA, see, for instance, Tichenor, Dividing Lines, chap. 9; Zolberg, A Nation by Design, 370–81; Reimers, David M., Unwelcome Strangers: American Identity and the Turn Against Immigration (New York, 1998), 2628.Google Scholar

67. Bibler Coutin, Susan, Legalizing Moves: Salvadoran Immigrants’ Struggle for U.S. Residency (Ann Arbor, 2000), 1617.Google Scholar

68. Pear, Robert, “Duarte Appeals to Reagan to Let Salvadorans Stay,” New York Times, 26 April 1987, 1.Google Scholar See also quoted in Schoultz, “Central America and the Politicization of U.S. Immigration Policy,”216–17. For more on El Salvador’s “Remittance Economy,” see Funkhouser, Edward, “Remittances from International Migration: A Comparison of El Salvador and Nicaragua,” Review of Economics and Statistics 77, no. 1 (February 1995): 137–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

69. Reagan’s speech introducing Duarte, reprinted in Department of State Bulletin, January 1988, 58–59.

70. Coutin, Legalizing Moves, 4.

71. Ibid., 17–18.

72. Cameron Barr, “Salvadoran Refugees Protected,” Christian Science Monitor, 19 November 1990, 8.

73. Mathews, Jay, “500,000 Immigrants Granted Legal Status: A Milestone for Central American Refugees,” Washington Post, 19 December 1990, A1.Google Scholar

74. Department of State, Bureau for Refugee Programs, World Refugee Report, June 1992, 68.

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