María Cristina García, Ph.D., is Howard A. Newman Professor of American Studies and Professor, Latina/o Studies/Department of History at Cornell University
My forthcoming book is a study of US refugee and asylum policy since the end of the Cold War, and the challenges in reconciling international humanitarian obligations with domestic concerns for national security, especially in the post-9/11 political climate. For over forty years, the Cold War provided the ideological lens through which the United States defined who a refugee is. Cold War concerns about national security—in this case, safeguarding the nation from the political, economic, and military threat of communism—shaped the contours of immigration policy in general, and refugee and asylum policy in particular. In the post-Cold War era, the war on terrorism has become the ideological lens through which the government interprets who is worthy of admission to the United States. However, a wide range of geopolitical and domestic interests, and an equally wide range of actors, have affected how the United States responds to humanitarian crises abroad, and ultimately who the nation prioritizes for admission as refugees.
I examine a subset of the immigrant population—the refugees, parolees, and asylees, who enter the US through different tracks in the immigration bureaucracy—to answer a range of questions: Who has petitioned for protection in the post-Cold War era and why? How have foreign policy considerations or changing understandings of international obligations influenced refugee and asylum policy? Has the reliance on immigration restriction and detention to protect national security affected asylum seekers’ chances of admission? What role has advocacy and litigation played in prying open the doors to the United States? These questions are of interest to historians and social scientists alike. A few of the case studies are drawn from the Americas and will be of particular interest to students and scholars of the Latino/a experience.