This revelatory study strongly suggests the quality of mercy is in many cases strained for the Third World's homeless and...


CALCULATED KINDNESS: Refugees and America's Half-Open Door, 1945 to Present

This revelatory study strongly suggests the quality of mercy is in many cases strained for the Third World's homeless and tempest-tossed. Since 1945, report Loescher (government/Notre Dame) and Scanlan (law/Indiana), well over 2 million aliens have entered the US outside regular immigration channels. Classified as DPs, emergency migrants, or refugees, they have come mainly from Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, and Latin America. Following WW II, the authors note, America's overall immigration policies have become appreciably less racist and more humane than, for example, during the Depression-wracked 1930's when Jewish children were denied visas as refugees. Nonetheless, ideology still plays an important role in determining access. Traditionally, those fleeing Communist rule have received preferential treatment in the al. location of resettlement slots. During the 1950's, President Eisenhower discovered he had the power to parole aliens into the country ""temporarily"" for pressing humanitarian reasons. Subsequently, this executive privilege was used to admit Hungarian freedom fighters, most of the Indochinese boat people and Cuba's Marielitos, who quickly wore out their welcome. On a by-the-numbers basis, though, dissidents seeking asylum from authoritarian right-wing regimes, including those in Chile, Guatemala, Haiti, Iran, the Philippines, El Salvador, and South Korea, have been victims of a double standard, according to the authors. Indeed, federal agents have cracked down on the so-called sanctuary movement, which smuggles Central Americans into the country, with a zeal ""normally reserved for organized crime."" Nor, the authors charge, has the US been particularly compassionate in its response to admission requests from areas like Africa's drought-stricken Sahel, where the State Department perceives no vital national interests are at stake. And they see no substantive policy shifts--until White House tenants undergo a change of heart and recognize that ""refugees are desperate people, not pawns in a global game of chess with the Soviet Union."" A provocative and persuasive indictment, made all the more timely by the Statue of Liberty's centenary.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1986


Page Count: -

Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1986