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Exceptions to Exclusion: A Prehistory of Asylum in the United States, 1880-1980.

Author: Yael Schacher; Harvard University,; Harvard University. Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Publisher: 2016.
Dissertation: Doctor of Philosophy Harvard University 2016
Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)--American Studies, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, March 2016.
Edition/Format:   Thesis/dissertation : Thesis/dissertation : Manuscript   Archival Material   Computer File : English
Summary:
This dissertation focuses on migrants mostly left out of scholarship on American refugee policy and resettlement programs and disrupts the scholarly dichotomy that analyzes the restrictionist handling of immigrants and the welcome accorded refugees. It does so by providing a history of political exiles, war widows and orphans, sailors, and students, who came to the United States and asked, with the help of
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Details

Genre/Form: Doctoral dissertations
Material Type: Thesis/dissertation, Manuscript, Internet resource
Document Type: Book, Computer File, Archival Material, Internet Resource
All Authors / Contributors: Yael Schacher; Harvard University,; Harvard University. Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
OCLC Number: 948345890
Notes: Keywords: asylum; refugees; immigration; persecution.

Abstract:

This dissertation focuses on migrants mostly left out of scholarship on American refugee policy and resettlement programs and disrupts the scholarly dichotomy that analyzes the restrictionist handling of immigrants and the welcome accorded refugees. It does so by providing a history of political exiles, war widows and orphans, sailors, and students, who came to the United States and asked, with the help of advocates, to be accorded refuge. It is a history that shows how concepts of persecution and protection underlying our contemporary asylum system, which was created in 1980, have a long genealogy; they developed in campaigns on behalf of these "pre" asylum seekers and were strengthened by appeals to American ideals (of freedom and opportunity) and rights (such as due process and equal protection).

Coalitions of asylum advocates were diverse, comprising organizations focused on newcomers--like the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and the American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born--while also drawing support from organizations focused on international cultural exchange, labor, and civil liberties and human rights. Because asylum-seekers were noncitizens, legal advocacy on their behalf was exhortatory and aspirational; that asylum-seekers were sometimes political radicals or in illegal status led to conflicts and hesitations among advocates who were professionals (lawyers, social workers, educators) and co-ethnics with their own priorities and commitments. Before World War II, many asylum seekers gained refuge, though their persecution claims were not officially recognized. After World War II, persecution claims were recognized selectively.

Throughout the period covered in this dissertation, the claims of these exceptional pre-asylum seekers and their handling helped define the concept of refugee and its distinction from other migrants. By focusing on contestation by advocates and the discretion of officials, my dissertation explores a fundamental tension at the heart of American asylum: the myth of refuge and commonplace exclusion.

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