Monday, October 2, 2017

María Cristina García's "The Refugee Challenge in Post-Cold War America"

María Cristina García is the Howard A. Newman Professor of American Studies in the Department of History at Cornell University. She is a 2016 Andrew Carnegie Fellow. She writes about refugee and immigration history and policy.

García applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Refugee Challenge in Post-Cold War America, and reported the following:
The Refugee Challenge in Post-Cold War America examines refugee and asylum policy in the United States since 1989. For over forty years, from the end of World War II to the fall of the Berlin wall, the Cold War provided the ideological lens through which the United States defined who a refugee was. In the post-Cold War era, a number of actors and geopolitical and domestic interests have influenced the crafting of refugee policy.

Page 99 falls in the middle of Chapter 2, which examines the U.S. responses to genocide. Since 1989, millions have crossed international borders in response to genocide, creating humanitarian crises for the societies that have received them, politically destabilizing fragile democracies, and putting enormous pressure on refugee and asylum programs worldwide. The case studies in this chapter—the Kurds in Iraq, Bosnians and Kosovar Albanians in the former Yugoslavia, and the Tutsi in Rwanda—were chosen for what they illustrate about U.S. responses to survivors. On page 99, I discuss the historical context for the Rwandan genocide of 1994. In signing the Genocide Convention, the United States committed itself to fight genocide wherever it might occur, but in Rwanda—and elsewhere—it failed to heed warnings from intelligence sources and failed to prevent the genocidaires from carrying out their destruction. The number of Rwandan refugees admitted to the United States in the aftermath of the massacre was also surprisingly small, in part because of the difficulties of distinguishing the victims of violence from the perpetrators.

Two decades after the Rwandan genocide, millions continue to be at risk—in Syria, Burundi, Somalia, the Central African Republic and Myanmar—to name just a few countries. Widespread and horrific violence does not guarantee that people at-risk will receive refuge in the United States, however, as the Rwandan case demonstrates. News of genocide might trouble American readers, but their unfamiliarity with certain regions of the world (and their suspicion of racial and cultural difference) makes them unlikely to call for the admission of large numbers of refugees. In such cases, advocacy becomes all the more important to changing public opinion and creating opportunities for refuge.
Learn more about The Refugee Challenge in Post-Cold War America at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue