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Immigration Act of 1965

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill that has dramatically changed the method by which immigrants are admitted to America. This bill is the Immigration Act of 1965. This act, also known as the Hart-Cellar Act [1], not only allows more individuals from third world countries to enter the US (including Asians, who have traditionally been hindered from entering America), but also entails a separate quota for refugees. [2] Under the Act, 170,000 immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere are granted residency, with no more than 20,000 per country. One hundred twenty thousand immigrants from the Western Hemisphere, with no “national limitations,” are also to be admitted. [3] The significance of this bill was that future immigrants were to be welcomed because of their skills/professions, and not for their countries of origin. Before President Johnson signed this bill, the Senate voted 76 to 18 in favor of this act, with the most opposition votes cast by Southern delegates. The House voted 326 to 69 in favor of the act. [4]

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The main reason the Immigration Act was the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Movement was to rid America of racial/ethnic discrimination. Two other bills, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Johnson signed for the same reason. [5] The Immigration Act was therefore a corrective measure instituted to atone for past history of discrimination in immigration.

Two earlier laws reflecting this discrimination were the National Origin's Act of the 1924 and the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952. [6] Both of these granted residency on the basis of national origin, and were particularly discriminative towards Asians. For instance, under the McCarran-Walter Act, while the quota for European immigrants was 149,667, the quota for Asian immigrants was 2,990, and the African quota was 1,400. [7] The Immigration Act of 1965, therefore, shifted the focus to non-European countries, especially those of the third world. Both Johnson and President Kennedy wished that by reforming immigration law, they would not only gain auspicious international relations (especially with non-White nations), but they would also confirm America's bedrock principles of America being a free country, where everyone is considered equal. [8]

Immigrants granted residency in America are now considered for admittance based on skill or for family reunification. More specifically, immigrants are accepted according to following preferences: unmarried adults whose parents are American citizens, spouses and offspring of permanent residents, gifted professionals, scientists, and artists. The last preferences are the following: married offspring of American citizens, siblings of adult citizens, skilled/unskilled individuals of occupations lacking workers in America, and refugees from either communist (or communist-controlled) countries, or those from the Middle-East. [9] The Immigration Act of 1965 became law on July 1, 1968. [10] Even though the Immigration Act of 1965 was not implemented to bring an immediate end to discrimination, it was definitely seen as a major contributor in ending it.

 


 

Notes:

 [1] Graham Jr., Otis L., Tracing Liberal Woes to '65 Immigration Act (Christian Science Monitor; v 88, n 23, pp. 19-23, 1995) p. 19

[2] Kutler, Stanley, Immigration Act of 1965 (Dictionary of American History, Third Edition; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, v 4, 2003) p. 230

[3] Kutler, Stanley, Immigration Act of 1965 (Dictionary of American History, Third Edition; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, v 4, 2003) p. 230

[4] Reimers, David M., Still The Golden Door: The Third World Comes To America (New York; Columbia University Press, 1985) p. 81

[5] Reimers, David M., Still The Golden Door: The Third World Comes To America (New York; Columbia University Press, 1985) p. 68

[6] Kutler, Stanley, Immigration Act of 1965 (Dictionary of American History, Third Edition; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, v 4, 2003) pp. 230-31

    Graham Jr., Otis L., Tracing Liberal Woes to '65 Immigration Act (Christian Science Monitor; v 88, n 23, pp. 19-23, 1995) p. 19

[7] Shih, Susan, Immigration Act of 1965 (Purdue University; <http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~willough/immgact.htm>)

[8] Shih, Susan, Immigration Act of 1965 (Purdue University; <http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~willough/immgact.htm>)

[9] Shih, Susan, Immigration Act of 1965 (Purdue University; <http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~willough/immgact.htm>)

Kutler, Stanley, Immigration Act of 1965 (Dictionary of American History, Third Edition; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, v 4, 2003) p. 230

[10] Reimers, David M., Still The Golden Door: The Third World Comes To America (New York; Columbia University Press, 1985) p. 81

 


 

Bibliography:

Graham Jr., Otis L., Tracing Liberal Woes to '65 Immigration Act (Christian Science Monitor; v 88, n 23, pp. 19-23, 1995)

Kutler, Stanley, Immigration Act of 1965 (Dictionary of American History, Third Edition; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, v 4, 2003)

Reimers, David M., Still The Golden Door: The Third World Comes To America (New York; Columbia University Press, 1985)

Shih, Susan, Immigration Act of 1965 (Purdue University; <http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~willough/immgact.htm>)


Researched and Written by:
Devin Love-Andrews
HIST 2260: The Modern World
11 September 2003

Text copyright 2003 by ThenAgain. All rights reserved.

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