Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication and Rhetorical Studies


Phillips, Kendall


1980 Refugee Act, Apologia

Subject Categories

Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Speech and Rhetorical Studies


In immigrant and refugee discourse studies, the overwhelming focus is on how the nation state excludes certain groups through bureaucratic and legislative practices. This thesis seeks to investigate how power manifests through inclusionary immigration practices such as the 1980 Refugee Act. These intentional acts of allowing entry are, at times, driven by perceptions that the nation has created crises and, in this way, allowing entry might be seen as a form of remediation or reparation. In my investigation of the 1975 and 1980 Refugee Acts, these acts appear to respond to the refugee crisis created by US involvement in Vietnam, however, US officials were explicit in denying any connection to the war. Through my analysis, I argue these legal paths for entry can represent a type of covert apologia on behalf of the nation state. The US acted in ways that sought to ameliorate public criticism, hence apologia, while denying that their actions were connected to this past wrongdoing, hence covert. In analyzing the formal and public advocacy surrounding the 1975 and1980 Refugee Acts, I seek to analyze how a language of denial and transcendence masks convert apologetic strategy. I then turn to how the commemoration of the 1980 Refugee Act in 2019 shifted the covert apologetic rhetoric into an explicit accusation aimed at the immigration and refugee policies of the Trump administration.


Open Access



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