A Dismal Anniversary—50 Years Of The Immigration Act Of 1965

Article author: 
John Derbyshire
Article publisher: 
Article date: 
3 October 2015
Article category: 
Our American Future
Article Body: 

On October 3rd, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Immigration Act.

The 1965 Act did two big things, and a multitude of small ones.

The first big thing it did: abolish the old National-Origins quotas, established in 1921, revised in 1924 and 1929. The idea of the quotas was to maintain demographic stability by limiting settlement from any European country to some fixed percent of that country’s representation in a recent census.

The 1921 Act used the 1910 census as its benchmark. The 1924 Act used the 1890 census in order to reduce the quota numbers on South and East Europeans, who it was thought did not make as good citizens as north and west Europeans. The 1929 revision went to the 1920 census...

Those 1920s quotas applied to Europeans, by the way. Americans at that time didn’t want immigrants from Africa or Asia at all. A few hundred were admitted on exceptional bases, but they weren’t allowed to naturalize.
The Western Hemisphere—Latin America—was also left out of the quotas. Within an absolute and quite low ceiling on total immigration, numbers were not restricted. But there were literacy tests and job requirements that kept them low in practice.
You have to remember that what we now call the Third World didn’t seem very consequential back then. Africa, Asia, and Latin America were numerically inconsequential compared with the developed world, the white world...
The civilizational gap has closed, technologically if not politically; the demographic gap hasn’t merely closed, it’s flipped. “Numbers are of the essence.”...
So why did the 1965 Act abolish the national-origins quota system?
Well, much of it had gone by the board anyway by 1965. The Chinese Exclusion Act, for example, had been repealed in 1943 out of deference to an ally in the war against Japan...
The second big thing the 1965 Act did: change the balance between skills-based immigration and family reunification—rather strongly towards the family-reunification side...
The labor unions, which in those far-off days still saw it as their business to protect the American working man, didn’t want floods of skilled labor coming in to depress wages...
The opening-up of immigration from the Third World, where families are bigger, pushed skill-based immigration further…into the shadows, if you like. There is no shortage of applications for family-reunification visas. That’s why we not only got the Texas clock boy Ahmed Mohamad and his Dad, Mohamed Mohamad, we got his invalid illiterate grandma, too...
I’ve just been reading this September 28th report out of the Pew Research Center. Opening sentence
 Fifty years after passage of the landmark law that rewrote U.S. immigration policy, nearly 59 million immigrants have arrived in the United States, pushing the country’s foreign-born share to a near record 14 percent. [Modern Immigration Wave Brings 59 Million to U.S., Driving Population Growth and Change Through 2065]
Fifty-nine million. Did the U.S.A. of 1965 need 59 million more people? Was that the goal of the 1965 Act?...

So what actually was the goal of the 1965 Act?

Ann Coulter, in a fine spirited column the other day, boiled it down to party politics... I don’t buy her thesis of a deliberate plan to replace the electorate. Our politicians just don’t think that far ahead. Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity...


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Ted Kennedy’s America: 50 Years After the Law That Changed Everything, Brietbart, October 3, 2015