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Immigration, refugees, and foreign policy

  • Michael S. Teitelbaum (a1)

The large-scale international migrations of the past decade are of increasing relevance to the formulation of foreign policy. The nature of such migrations has undergone dramatic transformations from those of the quite recent past, and the last five years have seen a series of migration “crises” with powerful foreign-policy implications. Foreign policies have had dramatic effects upon international migration trends. Usually these effects have been unintended and unanticipated, though mass migration has sometimes been employed as a tool of foreign policy. At the same time, international migration has had significant impact upon the formulation and content of foreign policy, especially in the United States. These relationships now present complex policy choices, involving deeply entwined concerns of foreign, domestic, and humanitarian complexion. There are important lessons to be learned from recent experiences, lessons that challenge longstanding perspectives. Indeed, real peril now attends the failure to deal coherently and humanely with international migrations as they relate to foreign policy.

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1. The multiplicity of forms characterizing international migration makes it appropriate to keep in mind four categories of such movement throughout this article: legal permanent immigration; legal temporary migration; illegal or undocumented immigration; and refugee flows (including asylum).

2. Zolberg, Aristide R., “Dilemmas at the Gate: The Politics of Immigration in Advanced Industrial Societies” (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Denver, Colo., 2 09 1982), pp. 23.

3. Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 203(a)(7) (repealed).

4. Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 201(42).

5. U.S. Committee for Refugees, Flight to Uncertainty: Poles outside Poland (New York, 1982).

6. United Nations, Commission on Human Rights, “Question of the Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Any Part of the World, with Particular Reference to Colonial and Other Dependent Countries and Territories,” E/CN.4/1503, 31 December 1981, Annex 1, p. 3, para. 9.

7. The Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the Trade Act of 1974 requires that most-favorednation treatment may not be granted to a “nonmarket economy country” that limits the rights of its nationals to emigrate. This provision, intended to facilitate Jewish emigration from the USSR, has unintentionally served to complicate relations with other nations of great U.S. foreign-policy interest, such as the People's Republic of China and Romania.

8. New York Times, 23 February 1982, p. Al.

9. Statement by the Secretary of State before the Senate Committee on Finance, 2 August 1982, Department of State, Current Policy 412, p. 1.

10. Speech before a Republican Fundraising Dinner, Jackson, Mississippi, 20 June 1983.

11. Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, Temporary Worker Programs: Backgrounds and Issues, 96th Cong., 2d sess., February 1980.

12. New York Times, 12 November 1978, p. 6, and 28 November 1978, p. 1. See also Wain, Barry, “A Proven Way to Help Refugees-Brutality,” Wall Street Journal, 1 10 1982, p. 30.

13. See Miller, Mark J. and Martin, Philip L., Administering Foreign-Worker Programs (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1982).

14. New York Times, 22 October 1975, p. 16.

15. Times (London), 22 July 1982.

16. Far East Economic Review, 15 June 1979, pp. 21–27.

17. McBeth, John, “A Perilously Short Fuse,” Far Eastern Economic Review, 15 06 1979, p. 26.

18. Cited in Far Eastern Economic Review, 15 June 1979, p. 21.

19. New York Times, 31 July 1980; Christian Science Monitor, 6 August 1981.

20. Weiner, Myron, “Migration and Development in the Gulf,” Population and Development Review 8 (03 1982), pp. 136.

21. Speech at the Republican National Convention, Kansas City, Mo., 17 July 1980.

22. Hoffman, Thomas D., coordinator of “Second Chance” Program, Central American Refugee Center, memorandum on “Salvadoran Refugees ‘Second Chance’ (Sponsorship) Program” (Washington, D.C., 1982).

23. In the off-the-record words of one participant, “The refugees shine the only spotlight we have on the evils of the Duvalier regime. The American press pay attention to this kind of thing” (Miami, 21 08 1980).

24. H. R. C. v Civiletti, 503 F. Supp. 442 (S. D. Honda 1980) modified, sub. nom. Haitian Refugee Center v Smith, 676 F 2d 1023 (5th Cir. 1982). See also New York Times, 3 July 1980.

25. Charles Mathias, McC. Jr, “Ethnic Groups and Foreign Policy,” Foreign Affairs 59 (Summer 1981), p. 979.

26. In the case of Israel, it is now conventional political wisdom to explain that country's domestic political shift toward the more aggressive foreign and military policies of the Begin government in terms of the preceding decade's large-scale influx of Oriental Jews, many of whom fled under pressure from predominantly Arab countries.

27. Weiner, , “Migration and Development,” p. 23.

28. Ibid. See also Allan G. Hill, “Population, Migration and Development in the Gulf States,” in Shahram Chubin, ed., Security in the Persian Gulf(London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1981), pp. 58–83.

29. For a discussion of the economic consequences over the short and long terms of the European guest-worker programs, see Miller and Martin, Administering Foreign-Worker Programs.

30. Martin, Philip L., “Labor-intensive Agriculture,” Scientific American 249 (10 1983), p. 59.

31. Of the $2.1 billion in U.S. assistance to the world's 10 million refugees in FY 1981, over 75% went toward the resettlement of only several hundred thousand in the United States.

32. For discussion, see Weiner, Myron, “International Emigration: A Political and Economic Assessment” (Paper presented to the conference on Population Interactions between Poor and Rich Countries, sponsored by the Harvard University Center for Population Studies and the Draeger Foundation, Cambridge, Mass., 6–7 10 1983), pp. 39ff.

33. According to the World Bank, remittance inflows in 1978–79 accounted for 89% of Egypt's merchandise exports; 77% of Turkey and Pakistan's; 69% of Portugal's; 60% of Upper Volta's; and 51% of Morocco's. The Bank presents no comparable data for Latin America, presumably because much of the remittance flow to countries such as Mexico and Colombia is sent through unofficial channels by nationals illegally resident in other countries. See International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/World Bank, World Development Report 1982 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 13. The economic significance of such remittances for laborexporting countries has been greatly increased by the foreign-currency drain and economic dislocations caused by the sharply increased prices for energy imports during the 1970s.

34. The hundreds of thousands who were “encouraged” to leave the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1977–79 were heavily of Chinese ethnic origin and were apparently forced to pay departure fees amounting to several thousand dollars (in gold or hard currency) per person. See Far East Economic Review, 15 June 1979.

35. Reprinted in Congressional Record, 17 December 1982, p. H10256.

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International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
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