53 pages • 1 hour readJessica Goudeau
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“Americans’ national fight for identity—the wrangling about who we once were, how we will define ourselves for each generation, and who we want to become—is the single greatest determiner of who we accept for resettlement.”
Goudeau argues that The Links Between US Identity and Immigration Policy are crucial for understanding who is admitted as a refugee. When Americans feel threatened by waves of immigration, such as in the early 20th century, they adopt restrictionist policies. In contrast, when they define themselves on the basis of values, such as rights, they are open to accepting refugees. The latter approach was evident in the aftermath of World War II.
“All over the country, everyone who is Karen—or Kachin, Karenni, Rohingya, Chin, or many of the other groups who are not ethnically Burmese—will run. Or they will think about running. Or they will wish they had been able to run.”
“Following World War II, through the dips and shifts of refugee resettlement policy over the next several decades, one of the principles of American identity would remain the same: The United States viewed itself as a country that provided defense for the defenseless, welcome for the war-battered, and home for the displaced people of the world.”
Due to The Links Between US Identity and Immigration Policy, the US was committed to the acceptance of refugees after World War II and until 2015. While there were debates about the number of refugees to resettle, that essential commitment, grounded in identity, did not waver.