Preamble Declaration of Independence
Preamble Declaration of Independence

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Preamble Declaration of Independence
Preamble Declaration of Independence

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The Declaration of Independence enshrines the fundamental rights of all persons to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. During his time as legal counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary (“House Judiciary Committee”), Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and International Law, Arthur P. Endres considered numerous pieces of legislation affecting these rights. On this website, we introduce one important example: the Refugee Act of 1980. We present six documents, each providing a snapshot of a stage in the lawmaking process:

 

(1) Gathering information. July 27, 1979: Mailgram from World Airways President Edward J. Daly to Congressman Peter W. Rodino, offering a glimpse of the human rights emergency at hand when Congress drafted the Refugee Act of 1980.

(2) Input from interested parties. August 24, 1979: Letter to Congressman Rodino from human rights advocacy organization Amnesty International, expressing Amnesty’s concerns related to H.R. 2816, a bill entitled “The Refugee Act of 1979” under consideration by the House.

(3) House Committee deliberations. November 9, 1979: House Judiciary Committee’s report regarding H.R. 2816.

(4) House Voting. December 10, 1979: Whip Advisory summarizing H.R. 2816, distributed by Majority Whip John Brademas to his Democratic colleagues on the day the House voted on this bill.

(5) Conference Committee deliberations. Side-by-side comparison of the House (H.R. 2816) and Senate (S. 643) bills that served as the foundation of the Refugee Act of 1980.

(6) Final bill becomes law.  Text of the Refugee Act of 1980.

For millions of people fleeing persecution, the Refugee Act of 1980 opened the doors to the U.S. and the promise of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Legislative history documents in the Endres Collection offer fascinating insight into how Congress makes such laws.

Creating Rights for Refugees

Slideshow photo credits -

Photo 1: Preamble to Declaration of Independence: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS DC, WASH, 453-62.

Photo 2: Qalqilya, W. Jordan, July 1967: Twice in a lifetime, UNRWA, Middle East Export Press, Inc. Photo by Myrtle Winter.

Photo 3: Statue of Liberty: Courtesy of Microsoft® Office.com, provided by Fotolia.

Photo 4: Baq'a Campe, E. Jordan, March 1968: Twice in a lifetime, UNRWA, Middle East Export Press, Inc. Photo by Myrtle Winter.