Sunday, October 4, 2020

How a 1965 immigration law forever changed the makeup of America

Jack Chin has written on the impacts of the Immigration Act of 1965.  For a variety of perspectives on the Act, click here.

Ruth Ellen Wasem on The Hill reminds us that the Hart-Celler Immigration Amendments Act of 1965, enacted 55 years ago this week, brought the civil rights revolution to immigration law. In signing the law,  Lyndon B. Johnson modestly stated, “(T)his bill that we will sign today is not a revolutionary bill.” Yet, the nation’s foreign-born population rose from 9.6 million in 1965 to a record 44.8 million in 2018. 

According to the Pew Research Center, new immigrants, their children, and their grandchildren accounted for 55 percent of U.S. population growth from 1965 to 2015. The post-1965 act immigrants were much more diverse racially because immigrants arriving from Africa and Asia increased both in percentages and numbers. Immigrant admissions from the Americas increased in sheer numbers after 1965, particularly from the Caribbean and Central America.

In the years that followed, LBJ and the congressional sponsors of the legislation have been roundly criticized for understating how the repeal of the national origin quotas law would alter the racial and ethnic composition of the United States. The bill’s supporters were not unimaginative or misguided. Rather, they minimized the bill because it did not accomplish all that they originally set out to do, particularly in the areas of high-skilled immigration and refugee admissions.


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