Sunday, March 22, 2020

40 years of the Refugee Act of 1980 -- The Refugee Act of 1980: A Forlorn Anniversary


At the time of its passage, the Refugee Act of 1980 was a major achievement, among other things, incorporating the concept of asylum in the U.S. immigration laws.  David A, Martin on Lawfare thoughtfully looks at the Act

"Forty years ago this week, President Jimmy Carter signed into law the Refugee Act of 1980. The statute became the basis for successful resettlement of more than 3 million refugees from distant countries to the United States—a significant humanitarian achievement, and one from which our economy, culture and even cuisine have benefited. Resettlement has also helped resolve or ameliorate foreign policy crises. And the act reshaped and clarified the U.S. framework for political asylum.

We should be celebrating these accomplishments. Instead a pall hangs over this anniversary. The current administration’s hostility to refugee admissions provides the primary reason. But the past five years or so have also starkly revealed the deep practical tensions built into the international asylum system. The U.S. and Europe have struggled to cope, and politically durable asylum solutions are elusive.

A cser examination of the act’s architecture, regarding both quota resettlement and political asylum, may foster appreciation of what it achieved and perhaps provide guidance and inspiration for overcoming today’s dysfunction."

Martin ends:

"When the Refugee Act was adopted, the world’s population stood at 4.5 billion. The act was designed to implement a 1951 U.N. refugee treaty, drafted when the globe held 2.5 billion people. In 2020, with world population at 7.5 billion and cheap transportation and communication widely available, classic asylum systems inevitably face enormous political strains. We must expand our horizons in seeking novel ways to balance protection and control. As we confront that titanically challenging task, we need to apply the mix of humanitarian dedication, realism and creativity manifested in the Refugee Act."


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