Maria Cristina Garcia

Howard A. Newman Professor of American Studies


Garcia, a 2016 Andrew Carnegie Fellow, studies refugees, immigrants, and exiles.  Her most recent book is The Refugee Challenge in Post-Cold War America (Oxford University Press, 2017), a study of the actors and interests that have shaped US refugee policy in the Post-Cold War and post 9/11 era.

She is also the author of Seeking Refuge: Central American Migration to Mexico, the United States, and Canada (University of California Press),  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 first book, Havana USA: Cuban Exiles and Cuban Americans in South Florida, 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.

She is co-editor (with Maddalena Marinari and Madeline Hsu) of A Nation of Immigrants Reconsidered: U.S. Society in an Age of Restriction, 1924-1965.

Garcia is currently completing a book on the environmental origins of refugee migrations—the so-called “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 displaced and mobile populations has increasingly blurred the geographic borders of her work.

In 2017, Garcia was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Society of American Historians.

Research Focus

  • refugee, asylum, and immigration history
  • climate-driven migration
  • 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

Edited Books

  • A Nation oof Immigrants reconsidered: US Society in an Age of Restriction, 1924-1965 (with Maddalena Marinari and Madeline Hsu), University of Illinois Press, 2018.

Books in Progress

  • Climate Refugees: The Environmental Origins of Refugee Migrations
  • Origin Stories: Myth and History in the American Immigration Experience (under contract)
  • Whose America? US immigration policy since 1986 (edited anthology with Maddalena Marinari)

Select peer-reviewed articles and book chapters

  • "National (In)security and the 1996 Immigration Act,” Modern American History, vol.1, no.2 (July 2018): 233-236.
  • “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.

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