Immigration Policy Over the Years: A Fascinating List of Famous Refugees to the United States

flat design albert einstein with science related icons image

Immigration policy has seen considerable changes over the years. And while partisan disagreement about the specifics and changing nature of immigration, most people agree that legal immigration has played a significant role in shaping the history and culture of the United States. As the leading exporter of culture and ideas in the modern world, the United States prides itself on giving its people the freedom to explore, speak, and find creative ways to fulfill their American Dream. Many notable people in history have come from other countries and established their homes in the United States. 

Here is a list of notable refugees from other nations that made their way into the country and contributed to the multi-faceted incredible history of this nation. 

What is Refugee Status?

Let’s begin with a review of what it means — in the eyes of immigration officials— to be a refugee. This is a legally defined status that applies to those people that have been persecuted or fear persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, or participation in a certain social group. People can apply for this status regardless of country of origin or current immigration status. 

This refugee status is reserved for people whose situation fits the above definition and who might be of special humanitarian interest to the United States. Asylum status is similar as it applies to those that meet the definition of refugee, are currently in the country, and/or are seeking admission through one of the ports of entry. 

Notable People That Have Entered The U.S. as Refugees 

The United States accepts thousands of refugees every year. In the fiscal year of 2021, the U.S accepted 11, 411 refugees. The terms refugee and asylum have been in the news many times in recent years, as the situation at our Southern border saw an influx of incoming migrants. 

This is constantly a developing story, but if we go back in time, we can find the names of immigrants that first came to the country as refugees. 

Albert Einstein

Perhaps one of the most well-known foreign refugees to America is none other than Albert Einstein. To say that Einstein has contributed to science and mathematics would be an understatement. His theory of relativity led to decades of study and theory in physics (not to mention the flourishing of the genre of science fiction) that contributed to the way we understand the behavior of objects in space and time. 

There will likely be no Star Wars without Einstein. There would be no understanding of magnetism, no GPS, and much more. Albert Einstein fled the growing threat of the Nazis, as he was born to a Jewish family. As the threat of Nazy Germany loomed, Einstein went from being a war pacifist to speaking out against the growing atrocities of the Nazis. 

Elie Wiesel 

A well-known writer of his time, Wiesel became a treasured voice of the many people that perished in the Nazi concentration camps. Wiesel was born in Romania and survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald. He became a well-known author once he made it into the United States and produced his most famous work Night, which became a commonly canonized work of the horrors of the Holocaust. 

Billy Wilder

A notable contributor to the early days of Hollywood and film direction, Billy Wilder became a legend among his peers. With films that stand the test of time such as Double Indemnity and Some Like it Hot, he made the list of flourishing Hollywood directors. He worked with stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Ginger Rogers, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon, and more. 

Wilder was a Jewish refugee fleeing the Nazi regime. The story goes that he arrived in Hollywood in 1934 with eleven dollars in his pocket. He was born in modern-day Poland and by the end of his life had acquired an art collection worth millions of dollars—not to mention a reputation as a beloved Hollywood director. His life story is another tale of struggle and perseverance as he suffered several setbacks before establishing himself as a well-known writer in Hollywood. 

Yet, Wilder built his talents and honed his skills over many years, but it was the ability to live and work in the United States that landed him the greatest gigs of his life. Wilder was known to be a wild man, intelligent, talented, and perhaps a little prone to scandal in his personal life. Nevertheless, his films have contributed to the notable works of early film history. 

The list is longer than we can tackle in one article. Other names include Gloria Estefan from Cuba, the first female secretary of state Madeleine Albright, and more!

Are You Looking for an Immigration Attorney to Help Your Case?

Immigration is important to this nation, both economically and culturally. Whether you are looking for an immigration lawyer for refugee status, asylum, or applying for green cards or citizenship, the complex nature of the process can leave anyone scratching their head. If you have questions about an immigration issue, call us today. 

Want to learn more about how we can help? Call our office today. Winterberg Law Firm is on your side!

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Victoria Winterberg

Ms. Winterberg’s law school experience began after joining the Law School Preparation Institute while being a student at the University of Texas at El Paso. She then attended law school at Washburn Univesity School of Law before formally beginning her career. 

Leveraging a unique cultural background and approach to law, Ms. Winterberg uses her expertise in immigration law to bring people together. She has extensive work in all areas of immigration law and has helped countless people win cases and thrive. Immigration-related cases often involve the most vulnerable in the community, and our firm is driven by our ability to protect our clients and their families with each and every case.