Refugee Resettlement Policy in an Era of Neoliberalization: A Policy Discourse Analysis of the Refugee Act of 1980


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Refugee resettlement policy in the United States has not been viewed in terms of market-based analytics in the same way that welfare policy has, despite their similarities. Both are antipoverty policies that originated in the neoliberalizing policy environment of the 1980s. The Refugee Act of 1980 was legislated just 1 year before the Omnibus Act of 1981, but it is largely neglected in analyses of social policies in the neoliberal context. Drawing from literature on welfare policy, this study examines policy discourse surrounding the Refugee Act—specifically devolution of authority, privatization, managerialism, and workfare—as elements of neoliberal governance. Its findings illustrate how discourse served to rationalize and promote neoliberal practice in refugee resettlement policy. Juxtaposing refugee policy with welfare policy in terms of its temporal dimensions raises questions about citizenship rights and obligations as articulated by market-oriented policy, both for refugees who are not citizens and for welfare recipients who are.

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