Authored by Lisa Borten
The document shown here is the untitled “United States Coordinator for Refugee Affairs Letter” from Dick Clark, who was appointed as U.S. Ambassador for Refugee Affairs by then-President Carter in 1979, to the US Coordinator for Refugee Affairs at the time the letter was written (September 12, 1979). Clark, a senator from Iowa and history professor, worked on and suggested revisions to H.R. 2816, which would later become known as the Refugee Act of 1980 (Prickman 2010).
This document, among others found in the Endres collection, relates to the revisions made to the bill in question, which was groundbreaking legislation for a number of reasons. First, it changed the requirements for someone to be considered a refugee by revising the language defining such a person. In the Clark letter, he advocates for broader language (rather than a person who is “detained or threatened with detention,” and insists that anyone who is “persecuted or has a well-founded fear of persecution” may be considered a refugee) (Clark 1979). Clark’s comments on the proposed changes to H.R. 2816 were largely contrary to the amendments that actually resulted from the Act (he is not in support of creating an Office of Refugee Resettlement, one of the major outcomes of the Act, for example), but his comments were certainly important in the construction of the final version of the Refugee Act (Clark 1979).
This documentation and the accompanying collection it is a part of, available through the Center for Migration Studies, are extremely significant in that they embody the Vincentian value of giving voice to the underserved. Since the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, immigration funding has increased considerably in the United States, and the newly-created (since 1980) structure of the Office of Refugee Resettlement has allowed for specific programs to be made available to new immigrants (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2012). These documents were crucial in expanding laws that allowed for previously marginalized people to be made part of American society.
Dick Clark to United States Coordinator for Refugee Affairs. September 12, 1979. Endres Papers, St. John’s University.
Prickman, Greg. “Guide to the Dick Clark Papers,” University of Iowa Libraries, 8/2010. http://collguides.lib.uiowa.edu/?MSC0414.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “The Office of Refugee Resettlement,” HHS.org. 10/2012. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/programs.