Michigan State University

Michigan State University wordmark Michigan State University masthead graphic

Refugees in America: The Dilemma of a Nation

Friday, February 17, 2017 05:00 pm

Location: 334A North Case Hall

A talk by Dr. Amanda Flaim, Assistant Professor in James Madison College.


The film Well-Founded Fear documents a variety of dramas unfolding in INS offices in the New York City area. The filmmakers focus on both the pleas of immigrants to stay in the United States, and the consideration of their cases by INS officers. Issues in every case are the requirements for asylum. The law says you can offer asylum if you find that someone has a well-founded fear of persecution. Political asylumwho deserves it? Who gets it?

Well-Founded Fear reveals a rich humanity in the situations of all of the film’s characters through testimonies of key individuals and their case officers. It is able to show and share the dilemma of a nation that has opened its arms to the influx of immigrants, yet is wary of continuing to do so without checks and balances, so that even a proud tradition of generosity towards refugees becomes suspect.

Amanda Flaim, PhD is a political
sociologist with extensive work with several UN agencies on issues of human rights and trafficking and statelessness prevention. Her research examines the methods of state and international
bureaucratic entities in ‘managing’ facilities, and preventing displacement and migration. Her work focuses most specifically on recent efforts to define, prevent, and intervene in the production of statelessness by UNHCR and the governments of Thailand and Nepal. Many of the phenomena she captures in her work in local bureaucracies in Thailand and Nepal are mirrored in the US bureaucratic adjudication of asylum (film: A Well-Founded Fear).