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ARCHIVE HIGHLIGHTS: Refugees and Immigration

The AFSC Archives documents 100 years of our involvement with people displaced by violence and natural disasters. The files begin with a focus on Europe, but move swiftly to protection of Mexican farmworkers in Texas in 1922. By 1988, our records cover global activity that includes Korea, Algeria, Vietnam, Nigeria/Biafra, Mali, Laos, Zimbabwe, Kampuchea, Lebanon, South Africa, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Field reports, board Minutes, correspondence, budgets, and annual reports show that AFSC transitioned quickly from providing food and shelter, to also helping refugees develop alternative means of self-sufficiency and self-determination.

Much of our work in the 1980s-1990s concentrated on (1) the U.S. Sanctuary Movement for Latin Americans fleeing torture, disappearances, and murder, (2) Maquiladora workers’ rights along the U.S./Mexico border, and (3) support for undocumented farmworkers in Florida. We formed a new department—Immigration Law Enforcement and Monitoring Project (ILEMP)—to deal with U.S. enforcement and abuse.  When legal quotas and statistics dominate the national conversation, public-facing materials strive to educate elected officials and citizens about facts versus fears and the human impact of quotas.

Longstanding controversy along the U.S./Mexican border and post-9/11 xenophobia have generated a need for more public information about rights and personal safety in dealing with law enforcement. Some AFSC brochures in the 2000s have a cartoon-like simplicity, to support people for whom English is a second, third, or fourth language. Social media has increased vastly in importance, a format that eludes traditional archiving.

NOTE: Some portions of the collection, held in confidence, are not open to the general public. Another 22,000 individual case records of people fleeing Europe during WW II, whom we assisted directly, now reside at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. In addition, two finding aids created by the USHMM cover approximately 70 cubic feet of AFSC records from our work in France and North Africa during the war. (See finding aids in the fourth row below).