Starting Over: Refugee Resettlement in the Reagan Era


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project chronicles the evolution of Southeast Asian refugee resettlement policy in the United States from 1975 to 1992, the formative years of its development and codification into law. Focusing on Hmong refugees from Laos, “Starting Over” examines the ways in which refugee resettlement sparked some of the most contentious debates in the United States during the late twentieth century about the role of government and how Americans should conceive of their national identity in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. This study reveals that the expansion of conservatism in national politics and decline in public support for the welfare state drove the cultural discourse and political implementation of refugee resettlement in the Reagan era, producing complex and unintended consequences that continue to inform policy today.