Authored by Alison Mirabella
The Endres Collection consists of only thirteen boxes from the personal collection of Arthur P. Endres, who served as counsel for the House Judicatory Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and International Law. And yet, contained within these boxes, are the legal proceedings, correspondences and notes that would shape the lives of millions of future immigrants seeking a new life in the United States.
This particular document is a correspondence between Peter W. Rodino Jr., the Chairman of the Committee of the Judiciary and Wade McCree, the acting attorney general. In this letter, Mr. McCree offers his viewpoints about particular amendments within the Refugee Act of 1979, making suggestions on behalf of The Office of the Attorney General.
The bill in question is The Refugee Act of 1979 (which later became The Refugee Act of 1980) a bill that sought to provide more equity in the treatment of refugees, more effective procedures in admissions, and greater resources for refugee resettlement (Kennedy 1981, 141-156). Another important function of the act was the creation of The Office of Refugee Resettlement, which still exists today and has settled over 3 million refugees since 1975 (“Office of Refugee Resettlement”, 1) . In addition, the bill was also credited with reducing the world wide ceiling for immigrants (“History of Immigration Law”, 1).
This document provides a rare glimpse of the bill in-progress, as amendments and provisions were still being negotiated on the newly passed Refugee Act. First, McCree proposes a two-year limit on the full federal funding on cash and medical assistance to new refugees, citing the four-year limit as “excessive” and noting that it might be “counterproductive” to the quickly assimilation of “new refugees” (McCree 1979, 1-2). However, McCree then supports raising the emergency assistance fund from $25 million to $50 million and also generously making the limit on refugees limitless, to account for unforeseen events in world politics in the future that may create large influxes of new refugees during different time periods. Finally, McCree hopes to continue the phase-down of special assistance to Cuban refugees, which had already been agreed upon.
These amendments, which seem like arbitrary changes in time periods, numbers and cash amounts, could of have had a huge impact on the future of the bill and more importantly, the lives of the refugees that the bill’s authority governed. Therefore, it’s important to have access to correspondences like this document to better understand the dialogue that goes into revising and negotiating amendments and to remain conscious of the impact these amendment have on real people.
“History of U.S. Immigration Laws.” Federation for American Immigration Reform, accessed 3/24/2014, 2014, http://www.fairus.org/facts/us_laws.
“The Office of Refugee Resettlement.” HHS.org, accessed 3/24/2014, 2014, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/resource/the-refugee-act.
Kennedy, Edward M. 1981. “Refugee Act of 1980.” International Migration Review 15 (1/2, Refugees Today): 141-156. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2545333.
Wade McCree to Peter W. Rodino Jr., December 11, 1979. Endres Papers, St. John’s University.