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U.S. Cold War Immigration and the Politics of Sanctuary

October 2, 2017 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of Cindy I-Fen Cheng wearing a red shirt standing in front of shelves of grey archival boxes

Monday Seminar:

Cindy I-Fen Cheng

Resident Fellow (2017-2018)

History; Asian American Studies, UW-Madison


This talk looks at how U.S. Cold War immigration policies structured the marginalization of Central Americans. Unlike Southeast Asians, Central Americans did not flee communist countries but countries where the U.S. backed the ruling regimes. They were thus denied the legal designation of refugees, leading to their mass arrival as undocumented immigrants. While both groups resettled in California’s skid rows, the settlement of Southeast Asians in the Tenderloin saw the rise of federally funded social services for refugees whereas the residence of Central Americans in Los Angeles Skid Row demonstrated the “shadowed lives” of the undocumented. This contrast underscores the imprint of U.S. Cold War policies on lives of the displaced and how it intersected with the history of homelessness in the U.S.


Cindy I-Fen Cheng is Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies at UW-Madison. She is the award-winning author of Citizens of Asian America: Democracy and Race during the Cold War (NYU Press, 2013) and editor of The Routledge Handbook of Asian American Studies (Routledge Press, 2016). Her articles have appeared in the American Quarterly, Journal of Asian American Studies, and other academic journals and anthologies. In spring 2018, she will be the next Director of Asian American Studies. Cindy is the recipient of numerous teaching awards, most recently the UW-Madison Distinguished Teaching Award – Chancellor’s Inclusive Excellence Award and The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program Award for Service as Outstanding Mentor. She is a member of the 2017 American Studies Association Program Committee, the Immigration and Ethnic History Society Theodore Saloutos Book Award Committee, and the Organization of American Historian Liberty Legacy Foundation Book Award Committee.


October 2, 2017
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States