Press/Journalists

Press Release
November 20, 2015

National Archives Displays the Refugee Act of 1980

Temporary Exhibit of Public Law 96-212

Washington, DC…Today, the National Archives opened a special display of selected pages of Public Law 96-212—The Refugee Act of 1980 in the West Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Museum. View all 17 pages of the Act on the National Archives’ Flickr stream.

The display is free and open to the public. The National Archives Museum is located on the National Mall on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW. Metro accessible on Yellow or Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial station. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.

About the Refugee Act of 1980

“A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to revise the procedures for the admission of refugees, to amend the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 to establish a more uniform basis for the provision of assistance to refugees, and for other purposes, (Public Law 96-212—The Refugee Act of 1980) approved March 17, 1980”
National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government

At the end of the Vietnam War 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 admitted to the United States through Presidential action. The law at the time restricted refugee admissions, and many members of Congress wanted to establish a more regular system of immigration and resettlement.

The Refugee Act of 1980 raised the annual ceiling for refugees 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 law 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.

Related online resources:

AOTUS Blog, November 20, 2015: Making Room for Those in Danger

Transcription of Public Law 96-212—The Refugee Act of 1980

Article: An Orphan of the Holocaust: His Journey to America
Prologue Magazine, Summer 2012, Vol. 44, No. 2

Video: Attachments Exhibit at the National Archives
“Attachments” exhibited in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC from June 15, 2012 to September 4, 2012.

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For press information contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.

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