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Impetus for Immigration Reform: Asian Refugees and the Cold War

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image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

Historians of foreign relations rarely consider the issue of immigration policy to be part of their field. Yet, immigration policy has much relevance for the study of the history of recent American foreign policy. The standards by which one nation chooses to admit immigrants can have an important effect on the sensitivities and attitudes of another nation, as was demonstrated in the tension that marked U.S.-Japanese relations after passage of the Asian Exclusion Act in 1924. Moreover, the movement of refugees escaping persecution, war, oppression, discrimination, and natural disasters can have an impact, both positive and negative, on a “receiving” nation’s economy, society, and political stability. In the recent history of the United States, debates over immigration policy have been guided in large part by foreign policy concerns. This is particularly true when considering the postwar debate between the executive branch and Congress about opening America’s doors to Asians.


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