Refugees in Times of Reelection: An Analysis of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman’s Responses to Jewish Refugees During and After World War II
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Many individuals hold a false notion that America is a safe haven for refugees, but a closer look at the refugee crisis surrounding World War II (1930-1948) tells a different story; Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and Harry S. Truman faced the difficult decision of if they should help Jewish refugees, and if so, how. In this thesis I argue that presidents’ actions concerning refugees are tempered by political concerns and driven by a xenophobic America, and that for a president to act humanitarianly and openly in refugees’ best interest that they are usually not facing reelection and are in a relatively safe political position. By examining the political correspondence of both presidents, I show that refugees fare best when they seek aid and admittance to the United States under a second-term president, and the examples of FDR and Truman help to shed a light on the more recent Syrian refugee crisis and former President Obama’s motivations and dealings with those clamoring at America’s gates.