On November 21, 1991 the United States formally suspended its amnesty for Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees.
The decision was in light of the overthrow of the Derg government back in May of that year.
The United States included Ethiopians both on humanitarian grounds, and also as a cold war tactic opening its nation to those wishing to leave Soviet and Communist countries.
According to Professor Tekle Woldemikael, who authored the seventh chapter of the book “Refugees in America in the 1990s: A Reference Handbook”, Eriteans and Ethiopians represent the first real “African immigrants to come to the new world, especially the United States and Canada, in significant numbers.
“They are thus the first voluntary immigrants from Africa”, wrote Woldemikael.
Accordingly, he adds “Until the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, the U.S. government had no policy for allowing Africans to come to the United States as refugees”. Woldemikael notes that the first of these refugees resettled in 1979 numbered 169. He noted of the 43,727 Africans to be allowed to enter the United States between 1982 through 1994, 68 percent were categorized as either Ethiopians and Eritreans.
Tekle Woldemikael is the Chair of the Sociology Department, is a Professor of Sociology at Chapman University.