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Maria Cristina Garcia

Howard A. Newman Professor of American Studies


Garcia, a 2016 Andrew Carnegie Fellow, studies refugees, immigrants, and exiles. Her first book, Havana USA, examined the migration of Cubans to the United States after the Castro revolution.   The book examines how these Cold war migrants-became a powerful economic and political presence in the United States, influencing foreign policy and electoral outcomes, reshaping the cultural landscape of the South, and ultimately reinterpreting what it means to assimilate.

Her second book, Seeking Refuge: Central American Migration to Mexico, the United States, and Canada is a study of the individuals, groups, and organizations that responded to the Central American refugee crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, and helped shape refugee policies throughout North America. Collectively these domestic and transnational advocacy networks collected testimonies, documented the abuses of states, re-framed national debates about immigration, pressured for changes in policy, and ultimately provided a voice for the displaced and the excluded.

Her third book, The Refugee Challenge in Post-Cold War America (Oxford University Press, 2017), a study of US refugee policy in the Post-Cold War and post 9/11 era, will be published later this year.

Garcia is currently completing a book on climate refugees.

Many of her undergraduate and graduate courses reflect these research interests and are cross-listed with American Studies, Latino Studies, and Latin American Studies.  While Garcia considers herself primarily a historian of 20th century U.S. history, her interest in mobile populations has increasingly blurred the geographic borders of her work.


  • American Studies Program
  • History
  • Latina/o Studies Program

Graduate Fields

  • American Studies
  • History
  • Latin American Studies
  • Latino Studies


  • refugee and immigration history
  • U.S. Latino history
  • Migration in the Americas
  • 20th century US history



  • The Refugee Challenge in Post-Cold War America (Oxford University Press, 2017)
  • Seeking Refuge: Central American Migration to Mexico, the United States, and Canada (University of California Press, 2006).
  • Havana USA: Cuban exiles and Cuban Americans in South Florida (University of California Press, 1996)

Books in Progress

  • Reopening America's Gates:Battling for Immigration Reform 1924-1965 (co-edited anthology with Madeline Y. Hsu and Maddalena Marinari)
  • Climate Refugees: The Environmental Origins of Refugee Migrations
  • Origin Stories: Myth and History in the American Immigration Experience (under contract)

Select peer-reviewed articles and book chapters

  • “What’s new about the new refugee policy?” in Marilyn Halter, Marilynn S. Johnson, Katheryn P. Viens, and Conrad E. Wright, eds.,  What’s New About the New Immigration: Traditions and Transformations since 1965  (Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2014).
  • “Latino immigration,” in Ron Bayor, ed., Oxford Handbook on American Immigration History. Oxford University Press.  Online article published January 2014; Hardcover book, 2015.
  • “Americana,” in David Gerber and Alan Kraut, eds., Ethnic Historians and the Mainstream: Shaping America’s Immigration Story  (Rutgers University Press, 2013).
  •  “Central American migration and the shaping of refugee policy”.  Book chapter in Migrants and Migration in Modern North America: Cross-Border Lives, Labor Markets, and Politics in Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the United States. Dirk Hoerder and Nora Faires, eds. (Duke University Press, 2011).
  • "Latino Interchange," Journal of American History 97:2 (September 2010): 424-464.
  • “Latin American Populations in the United States,” Encyclopedia of Latin American History, Jay Kinsbruner et al., eds., Gale Press, 2008  
  • "Refugees or Economic Immigrants? The Politics of US Refugee Policy and Immigration from LAtin America" in A Companion to Latino Studies. Juan Flores and Renato Rosaldo, eds. Blackwell Press, 2007.
  • “’Dangerous times call for risky responses’: Latino Immigration and Sanctuary, 1981-2001,” in Ya Basta! Latino Religions and Civic Activism in American Public Life Gastón Espinosa, Virgilio Elizondo, and Jesse Miranda, eds. Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • “Exiles, Immigrants, and Transnationals: Cubans in the United States,” in The Columbia Anthology of Latino History.  David G. Gutierrez, ed. Columbia University Press, 2004.