Refugee Relief Act

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Refugee Relief Act
Great Seal of the United States
Other short titlesSpecial Migration Act of 1953
Long titleAn Act for the relief of certain refugees, and orphans, and for other purposes.
NicknamesRefugee Relief Act of 1953
Enacted bythe 83rd United States Congress
EffectiveAugust 7, 1953
Public law83-203
Statutes at Large67 Stat. 400
Titles amended8 U.S.C.: Aliens and Nationality
U.S.C. sections amended
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 6481 by Louis E. Graham (RPA) on July 27, 1953
  • Committee consideration by House Judiciary
  • Passed the House on July 28, 1953 (221-185)
  • Passed the Senate on July 29, 1953 (63-30)
  • Reported by the joint conference committee on July 29, 1953; agreed to by the House on July 31, 1953 (Agreed) and by the Senate on August 1, 1953 (Agreed)
  • Signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on August 7, 1953

The Refugee Relief Act of 1953 was an act of legislation passed by the 83rd United States Congress. It was the United States's second refugee admissions and resettlement law, following the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, which expired at the end of 1952. It resulted in the admission of 214,000 immigrants to the United States, including 60,000 Italians, 17,000 Greeks, 17,000 Dutch and 45,000 immigrants from communist countries.[1] The act expired in 1956.

Initially, the bill was called the Emergency Migration Act and intended as a response to President Dwight D. Eisenhower's request for emergency legislation to admit more immigrants from Southern Europe, who were excluded according to the quotas of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (the "McCarran-Walter Act").[2][3]

The bill was renamed by Senator McCarran, and a number of provisions were added with the effect of complicating the determination of eligibility of applicants.[3] Applicants were required to undergo a thorough security screening, including a verifiable history of their activities for two years prior to application.[4]

The bill passed the House of Representatives with a 221–185, with the support of a majority of Democrats and an even split among Republicans. The United States Senate passed the bill on a voice vote, with Senator McCarran opposed.[1] The act was signed into law by President Eisenhower on August 7, 1953.[5]

The act defined refugees as people who lack "the essentials of life." In order to be eligible for admission, refugees were required to evidence a guarantee of a home and job by a U.S. resident. Italian-Americans and Greek-Americans were permitted to pre-empt refugee quotas to admit their relatives.[3]

In 1955, Edward Corsi, who had been appointed to administer the act, was dismissed as the result of a conflict with State Department Security Director Scott McLeod. Representative Francis Walter accused Corsi of association with a Communist-affiliated group. Corsi said that the administration of the act was hampered by an obsessive "psychology of security", and the refugees were being "investigated to death".[6]


  1. ^ a b Zolberg, Aristide R. (2006). A nation by design: immigration policy in the fashioning of America. Harvard University Press. pp. 580. ISBN 0-674-02218-1.
  2. ^ Loescher, Gil (1998). Calculated Kindness. Simon and Schuster. p. 45. ISBN 0-684-86383-9.
  3. ^ a b c "IMMIGRATION: New Chance in Life". Time. 25 July 1955. Archived from the original on December 15, 2008. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
  4. ^ Loescher, Gil (1998). Calculated Kindness. Simon and Schuster. p. 46. ISBN 0-684-86383-9.
  5. ^ Gerhard Peters; John T. Woolley. "Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Statement by the President Upon Signing the Refugee Relief Act of 1953.," August 7, 1953". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara.
  6. ^ Mayer, Michael S. (2010). The Eisenhower Years. Infobase Publishing. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-8160-5387-2.

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