Five years after passage of the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, the Refugee Relief Act of 1953 allowed anticommunist refugees, or those who had reason to fear living under communist control, entry into the United States under a special set of regulations. Anticommunist refugees, ethnic Germans who had previously resided in non-German countries but who had been expelled after the collapse of Nazi Germany, war orphans, and members of military forces who had fought on the Allied side during World War II all became eligible for immigration to the United States under special quotas. However, with the exception of war orphans, these refugees had to prove that if they were unable to emigrate, they would become subject to government persecution in their own countries.
The Refugee Relief Act of 1953 provided an additional 205,000 immigration visas for specific categories of aliens, their spouses, and their dependent children. An additional 4,000 visas were made available for
Under the law, every adult applicant had to provide suitable proof of identity. Those who claimed they were threatened by persecution or feared they would be persecuted on the basis of their race, religion, or ethnic origin, also had to provide sufficient documentation of those threats to warrant their emergency immigration. Applicants also had to provide evidence of their employability in the United States and assurances that neither they nor any members of their families immigrating with them would go on welfare in the United States. Finally, applicants had to show that whatever jobs they took would not displace American workers.
The largest number of visas, 55,000, was reserved for ethnic
U.S. immigration officials worked with the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration to standardize financial arrangements for transportation to the United States for applicants who had been approved for immigration and had proof of employment and housing awaiting them. Family members in the United States or immigrant assistance groups had to furnish evidence of support for sponsored immigrants. In order to help immigrant assistance groups in the United States, the act allowed the U.S. Department of the Treasury to lend these groups up to five million dollars to aid in resettlement costs. Indigent applicants were not eligible to apply. To be considered, applicants had to produce documentation to support their personal histories for at least two years prior to application. Anyone found guilty of misrepresentation of facts on the application was permanently denied consideration. Applicants already in the United States who falsified their applications were subject to immediate and permanent deportation.
In an effort to prohibit former Nazis and members of certain other groups from applying, anyone who advocated or participated in any form of racial or religious persecution was automatically and permanently denied consideration. Applicants with job skills in demand in the U.S. workforce were given priority consideration, as were those who had family members who were U.S. citizens and were willing to sponsor the applicant.
Bon Tempo, Carl J. Americans at the Gate: The United States and Refugees During the Cold War. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2008. Examines the Refugee Relief Act of 1953 in terms of massive changes in immigration policies and law in the United States following World War II. Freedman, Jane. Gendering the International Asylum and Refugee Debate. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Wide-ranging examination of the experiences of women refugees that focuses on differences between what male and female refugees go through. LeMay, Michael, and Elliott Robert Barkan, eds. U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Laws and Issues: A Documentary History. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999. Collection of one hundred primary documents on immigration issues, with analyses. Whittaker, David. Asylum Seekers and Refugees in the Contemporary World. New York: Routledge, 2006. Broad discussion of issues arising from the growing numbers of refugees around the world.
Displaced Persons Act of 1948
Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952
McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950
World War II