Further admission of refugees occurred through executive branch decisions to use the parole authority granted the attorney general in the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act. Parole allowed the attorney general to admit limited numbers of refugees who could reside safely in the United States on a temporary basis. The decision of whether they could remain permanently rested with Congress which would vote about whether to grant citizenship.
Parole authority was invoked three times to provide escape to refugees fleeing communism: after the Hungarian revolution in 1956, after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, and after a surge of Chinese entered Hong Kong from the People’s Republic of China.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
White House Statement Concerning the Admission of Additional Hungarian Refugees.
December 1, 1956
THE PRESIDENT ANNOUNCED today that the United States will offer asylum to 21,500 refugees from Hungary. Of these, about 6500 will receive Refugee Relief Act visas under the emergency program initiated three weeks ago. The remaining 15,000 will be admitted to the United States under the provisions of Section 212 (d) (5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. When these numbers have been exhausted, the situation will be re-examined.
The President emphasized that the flight of refugees into Austria had created an emergency problem which the United States should share with the other countries of the free world. Because of this emergency, those refugees who seek asylum in the United States will be brought here with the utmost practicable speed.
The President pointed out that the immigration visas available for Hungarian escapees under the Refugee Relief Act are practically exhausted and that the emergency compels the only other action which is available, namely, action under the provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act which authorizes admission on parole.
Persons admitted into the United States on parole have no permanent status in the United States, but the President will request the Congress in January for emergency legislation which will, through the use of unused numbers under the Refugee Relief Act, or otherwise, permit qualified escapees who accept asylum in the United States to obtain permanent residence.
The President also stated that it was his intention to request the Congress to include in such legislation provisions which would allow at least some of the escapees who have proceeded to other countries for asylum to have the opportunity to apply for permanent resettlement in the United States, having in mind particularly the fact that many of those refugees undoubtedly have relatives here.
The President pointed out that other nations have already made increasingly generous offers of asylum and have waived the ordinary restrictions imposed upon immigration.
The President said that he had directed the Secretary of Defense to work out arrangements for the transportation of these refugees to the United States in accordance with agreements to be made with the Austrian Government and the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration.
In making his announcement, the President said that providing asylum to these Hungarian refugees would give practical effect to the American people’s intense desire to help the victims of Soviet oppression. It will also materially assist the Government of Austria, which has responded so generously to the refugees’ needs, to carry out its policy of political asylum.
Historical Context of Parole of Chinese from M. Hsu:
… The poster child for this latest publicity campaign was nineteen-year-old Lee Ying…, whose face besmeared with mud and tears broadcast her utter despair when forced to return across the border. On May 15, 1962, the New York Herald Tribune ran her photograph with the title “Red Past, Red Future” and the caption “Lee Ying, only 19, has to go home again. That’s Red China, across the way from Hong Kong. Terror and misery from which she fled make up Lee Ying’s future. But the British authorities, alarmed by a rising wave of refugees from Red China, send them back from Hong Kong. Lee Ying shows she faces a grim future.” Reprinted widely on American front pages and fundraising brochures, Lee Ying’s tragedy provided compelling fodder for Americans to respond to the latest Chinese refugee crisis…
Under these circumstances of general sympathy for Chinese, on the evening of May 23 Attorney General Robert Kennedy officially authorized use of parole to admit 5,000 refugees. The White House had gained Representative Walter’s support for the details of how parole for Chinese would be implemented. At a press conference Walter announced that “preference will be given to those with the technical skills in greatest demand in the United States, and those with close family ties here…” He expressed approval for measures that emphasized “first-preference” qualifications and the existing backlog of cleared visa applicants that considered “skills that are scarce in the United States, plus sponsorship guarantee support.” Transportation costs were managed by requiring refugees to fund their own travel or get help from relatives or organizations. This version of refugee admissions incurred few expenditures on the part of the United States, apart from granting admission to a few thousand additional Chinese, and served as a rehearsal for how criteria for general immigration reform might shift away from national origins… (p. 181-183).
Excerpt from: Hsu, M. Y. (2015). The good immigrants: How the yellow peril became the model minority. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.