This dissertation examines America’s forgotten era of refugee regulation. Although modern refugee policy in the United States is often perceived as an invention of the twentieth century, the regulation of refugees has been central to American history since the nation’s founding. With analysis of legal documents, the records of local, state, and federal government agencies, and texts authored by refugees, this study examines in comparative perspective the United States' foundational examples of refugee policy-making during the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Mexican Revolution, and World Wars I and II. I argue that America’s earliest examples of refugee regulation were entangled with the dispossession of Native people, the marginalization of African Americans before and after emancipation, and the exclusion of so-called “undesirable” immigrants. Biases concerning race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and ability influenced distinctions about who was and was not a legitimate “refugee” in the US. Those biases also shaped conceptions of who did and did not belong within US borders and the legal and political infrastructure that enforced them. Refugee regulation thus did not emerge after World War II, when the United States rose to a position of unprecedented power on the world stage. The creation of American refugee law and policy was a process that went hand-in-hand with defining the nation and consolidating the US nation-state’s authority at home and abroad. By using the United States to explore the role that nation-states play in the production and regulation of refugees, this dissertation historicizes the global challenges of population displacement and persecution that persist in the present.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. March 2018. Major: History. Advisors: Erika Lee, Donna Gabaccia. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 347 pages.
No Asylum For Mankind: The Creation Of Refugee Law And Policy In The United States, 1776-1951.
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