Monday, March 12, 2018

JFK and Immigration Reform.

Did you know that President John F. Kennedy took up the immigration reform cause, giving a speech in June 1963, just 4 months before he was assassinated, calling for making merit and skills-based immigration the priority? Just as President Trump is doing today.
After Kennedy’s assassination, that November, Congress began debating and would eventually pass the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. On signing the act into law in October 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson stated that the act did nothing to really change the past immigration system. He lied. It did away with merit as an immigration goal and replaced it with chain migration, or family reunification, to ensure a low-skilled, poorly educated flow of immigrants into the United States, part of LBJ's plan to ensure 100 years of future Democrat voters.
The bill signed in 1965 marked a dramatic break with past immigration policy, and would have an immediate and lasting impact which is still seen today. The 1965 Immigration Act provided for chain migration, with family reunification as a major goal. A broad lobby pushed for the greater emphasis on families in immigration. It included churches, ethnic groups whose members had family in the old country, and the AFL-CIO. The union worried about competition from too many highly skilled newcomers. The new immigration policy would increasingly allow entire families to uproot themselves from other countries and reestablish their lives in the U.S.
In the first five years after the bill’s passage, immigration to the U.S. from Asian countries would more than quadruple. All told, in the three decades following passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, more than 18 million legal immigrants entered the United States, more than three times the number admitted over the preceding 30 years.
By the end of the 20th century, the policies put into effect by the Immigration Act of 1965 had greatly changed the face of the American population. Whereas in the 1950s, more than half of all immigrants were Europeans and just 6 percent were Asians, by the 1990s only 16 percent were Europeans and 31 percent were of Asian descent, while the percentages of Latino and African immigrants had also jumped significantly. Between 1965 and 2000, the highest number of immigrants (4.3 million) to the U.S. came from Mexico.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, illegal immigration was a constant source of political debate, as immigrants continue to pour into the United States, mostly by land routes through Canada and Mexico. The Immigration Reform Act in 1986 attempted to address the issue by providing better enforcement of immigration policies and creating more possibilities to seek legal immigration. The act included two amnesty programs for unauthorized aliens, and collectively granted amnesty to more than 3 million illegal aliens. Another piece of immigration legislation, the 1990 Immigration Act, modified and expanded the 1965 act, increasing the total level of immigration to 700,000. The law also provided for the admission of immigrants from “underrepresented” countries to increase the diversity of the immigrant flow.
The economic recession that hit the country in the early 1990s was accompanied by a resurgence of anti-immigrant feeling, including among lower-income Americans competing for jobs with immigrants willing to work for lower wages. In 1996, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which addressed border enforcement and the use of social programs by immigrants.
In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which took over many immigration service and enforcement functions formerly performed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). With some modifications, the policies put into place by the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 are the same ones governing U.S. immigration in the early 21st century. Non-citizens currently enter the United States lawfully in one of two ways, either by receiving either temporary (non-immigrant) admission or permanent (immigrant) admission. A member of the latter category is classified as a lawful permanent resident, and receives a green card granting them eligibility to work in the United States and to eventually apply for citizenship.
Eighty-five percent white in 1965, the nation’s population was one-third minority in 2009 and is on track for a nonwhite majority by 2042.
The influx of refugees and of millions of illegal immigrants over the last several decades have certainly contributed to the United States' profound demographic transformation. But the chief driver of this change remains the system of family-based immigration put in place in 1965. Over time, the process of "chain migration," has allowed entire families to re-establish themselves in the United States, regardless of whether they are good for America or not. Historian Otis Graham thinks the policy has been a terrible mistake:
"Family reunification puts the decision of who comes to America in the hands of foreigners. Those decisions are out of the hand of the Congress — they just set up a formula and it's kinship. Frankly, it could be called nepotism."
Hear hear.

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