Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2018

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Greta Gilbertson, Ph.D.


What accounts for the inconsistencies in the way the U.S. responds to large scale influxes of immigrants who are seeking protection within the U.S.’s borders? The author comes to conclusions that the political interests of the United States are largely responsible for how the U.S. responds to large scale immigrant groups seeking protection. The author further argues that the inconsistencies of the U.S. response from case to case is due to the protection gap that exists within the UNHCR’s definition of refugee, and the resulting ease with which the U.S. can apply the definition, when, where, and how it chooses based on its political interests in the home country of the immigrants in question. The author comes to these conclusions based on an in depth discussion of three cases of mass migration to the U.S., in which each group of immigrants sought protection within the U.S.’s borders. The first case is that of the Cubans, arriving in the U.S. beginning with Fidel Castro’s rule in 1959, followed by an analysis of the influx of Haitians seeking protection in the midst of the dictatorship of the Duvaliers beginning in 1957. The final case is that of the Salvadorans, fleeing in increasingly higher numbers beginning with the onset of civil war in the 1980s and into the 2000s. In each case, the U.S.’s responses to the immigrants varied, leading to an interesting framework with which the reader can then understand and further analyze present day influxes of immigrants seeking refuge.