Sarah R. Meiners

Graduate Student


I am a political historian of the 20th century United States researching immigration and refugee history. I focus on the development and implementation of refugee and asylum policy in United States’ territories. My work engages with histories of migration, foreign policy, empire and settler colonialism, and borders and borderlands.   

Advisor:  María Cristina García

Research Focus

My dissertation, titled “Asylum Archipelago: Migration in the Borders of Empire in the Pacific and Caribbean,” historically analyzes refugee and asylum policy in United States’ territories and other sites of empire from 1939 to 2009. I interrogate how these spaces operated as borderlands, transit points, detention sites, and places of resettlement. I also examine the relationship between migration policy and territorial status adjustment. My dissertation comparatively and relationally examines U.S. policies towards Jewish, Vietnamese, Korean, Haitian, Cuban, Kurdish, Iraqi, and Chinese migrants in unincorporated territories (Guam; Wake Island; the U.S. Virgin Islands), commonwealths (the Northern Mariana Islands; Puerto Rico), and the U.S. Guantanamo Naval Base. I also look beyond these sites to consider how the U.S.’ power to regulate migration extended beyond its geographic and legal borders to safe havens established in third countries through international agreements.  

My research has been supported by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library as well as several Cornell entities including the Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, the Society for the Humanities, and the American Studies Program.


Book Reviews

Review of Baby Jails: The Fight to End the Incarceration of Refugee Children in America by Philp G. Schrag. Journal of American History History. 41 (4):107-108.

Review of Suffer the Little Children: Child Migration and the Geopolitics of Compassion in the United States by Anita Casavantes Bradford. Journal of American Ethnic History. (Forthcoming).  

HIST Courses - Spring 2024