Amnesty International Correspondence

Authored by Danielle Manri

 This is a digitized document from the Endres Papers Collection. It was created by Stephanie Grant, Amnesty International’s Washington Office Director

Amnesty International Correspondence

This document, which has never before been seen by the public eye, showcases the development and revision of the Refugee Act of 1980. Most importantly, it provides a context for analyzing the inequities in previous refugee legislation that created the need for a more humanitarian law. This widespread injustice among the admittance of refugees stemmed from the somewhat discriminatory definition of the term “refugee.” In the end, this narrow definition imposed undue suffering on the hundreds of thousands of refugees who sought protection in the United States during the 1970s.[1] On top of dealing with painful memories of a lost home, many of these refugees were not even sure if they would be able to stay in the Land of the Free.[2]

This correspondence is typed on letterhead from Amnesty International, an organization that is independent of all government bodies and focuses on preserving the rights of humans all over the world.[3] The letter is authored and signed by Stephanie Grant, who served as Director of Amnesty International’s Washington D.C. office. Here, Ms. Grant expresses her support for the proposed Refugee Act as well as the revised, more equitable definition of a refugee.

One reason why redefining the term “refugee” was so important in the development of the Refugee Act was because its predecessor, the Immigration and Nationality Act, defined a refugee in a way that caused major social injustice to those seeking asylum. Specifically, the latter piece of legislation had imposed geographical and political restrictions on entering refugees, meaning that only individuals fleeing from communistic or Middle Eastern countries were granted refugee status. This policy was discriminatory in the sense that two people could be seeking asylum for the same reason, but only the one from the qualifying country would be protected under the law.[4]

After three years of revision and debate, the Refugee Act was finally enacted into a law by President Jimmy Carter on March 17, 1980. The Refugee Act culminated in a piece of legislation that provided systematic procedures for admittance of refugees to the United States. Another function of the Refugee Act was to bridge the compliance gap between U.S. refugee law and requirements of international law. Most importantly, a refugee was now defined as someone who is unable to return to his or her country due to persecution or fear of persecution on account of nationality, religion, race, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.[5]

This document exemplifies just how the humanitarian ideologies of Amnesty International have influenced the Refugee Act, ultimately alleviating some of the legal turmoil that has plagued these refugees.

Bibliography

Amnesty International, “About Amnesty International.” Accessed March 20, 2014. https://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are/about-amnesty-international

Anker, Deborah. “The Refugee Act of 1980: A Historical Perspective.” In Defense of the Alien.
no. 2 (1982): 89-94.

Kennedy, Edward. “The Refugee Act of 1980.” International Migration Review. no. 1-2 (1981):
141-156.

New Americans: A Guide to Immigration since 1965. 2007. s.v. “Refugees.” Accessed
March 20, 2014. http://0www.credoreference.com.alpha1.suffolk.lib.ny.us/entry/hupenwam/refugees

Refugee Act of 1979, December 2, 1979. Center for Migration Studies. St. John’s University.

 


 

[1] Anker, Deborah. “The Refugee Act of 1980: A Historical Perspective.” In Defense of the
Alien. no. 2 (1982): 89-94.

[2] New Americans: A Guide to Immigration since 1965. 2007. s.v. “Refugees.” Accessed
March 20, 2014. http://0www.credoreference.com.alpha1.suffolk.lib.ny.us/entry/hupenwam/refugees

[3] Amnesty International, “About Amnesty International.” Accessed March 20, 2014.
https://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are/about-amnesty-international.

[4] Refugee Act of 1979, December 2, 1979. Center for Migration Studies. St. John’s University.

[5] Kennedy, Edward. “The Refugee Act of 1980.” International Migration Review. no. 1-2
(1981): 141-156.

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