Refugee Act of 1980
Refugee Act of 1980
In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the need for a change in American policy concerning refugees became apparent as hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians fled political chaos and physical danger in their homelands. Between 1975 and 1979, some 300,000 of these refugees were able to come to the United States through Presidential action, as the law at the time restricted refugee admissions. Seeing this, many members of Congress wanted to establish a more regular system of immigration and resettlement that would establish a clear and flexible policy.
Passed unanimously by the Senate in late 1979 and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in early 1980, the Refugee Act of 1980 amended the earlier Immigration and Nationality Act and the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act. It raised the annual ceiling for refugees from 17,400 to 50,000, created a process for reviewing and adjusting the refugee ceiling to meet emergencies, and required annual consultation between Congress and the President.
The Act also changed the definition of “refugee” to a person with a “well-founded fear of persecution,” a standard established by United Nations conventions and protocols. It also funded a new Office of U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs and an Office of Refugee Resettlement and built on already existing public-private partnerships that helped refugees settle and adjust to life in their new country.
Click here to download a high-resolution copy of the Refugee Act of 1980, the first and signature pages of which are shown here.
Past Featured Records
The Maker of Pilots: Willa B. Brown
Willa B. Brown, February 13, 1943
National Archives, Records of the Office of War Information
Aviator Willa Beatrice Brown (1906–92) achieved numerous “firsts” in her lifetime, many of them earned through her tireless advocacy to integrate aviation programs. Brown began taking flying lessons in 1934,... Read more
Courting Confrontation: The Arrest of Susan B. AnthonyThursday, November 3, 2022 – Thursday, January 12, 2023East Rotunda Gallery
On November 5, 1872, Susan B. Anthony and 14 other women attempted to vote in Rochester, New York, challenging section... Read more
Featured Document Display: Remembering the Hollywood 10: Screenwriter Ring Lardner, Jr.
Thursday, September 8, 2022 – Wednesday, November 2, 2022
East Rotunda Gallery
Early in the Cold War, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigated allegations of Communist activity in the film industry. The committee’s mandate was... Read more
Black Wall Street: 100 Years Since the Tulsa Race Massacre
Thursday, April 1, 2021 – Thursday, June 17, 2021
“— were dead. Figures are omitted [because] NO ONE KNOWS.” —Red Cross Report
On Memorial Day 1921, a Black shoe shiner named Dick Rowland rode in an elevator with white operator Sarah Page. The next day,... Read more
Victory in Japan: 75th Anniversary of the End of WWII
World War II, the bloodiest conflict in history, came to an end in a 27-minute ceremony on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, six years and one day after the war erupted in Europe. On that September morning in 1945, Japanese officials signed a... Read more