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Immigration in America

The United States of Americas success as national power and past unprecedented economic
growth and opportunities has attracted many people from countries all over the globe to
immigrate and start a new life. The estimated 850,000 new illegal immigrant arrivals each year
is about as large as the highest level of legal immigrant admissions in our history before the mass
immigration that was unleashed by the 1965 Immigration Act (Fair). After the year 1965, the
United States has undergone the greatest and most significant period of mass immigration in its
history. In 1965, significant legislative changes were made to the immigration system. These
changes were not intended to increase the level of immigration; they were intended to rid the
admission system of its overtly discriminatory features that had been in place since 1924. These
compositional changes, however, had unexpected consequences (Briggs). Thus the phenomenon
of mass immigration was revived from out of the nation's distant past. The economic
circumstances in a nation state change over time and so should its immigration policies,
however, it is important to understand the policies that allow and control immigration flows for
the purpose of assessing the future of a nation. To know what public policy changes are needed,
it is necessary to know the laws, regulations, enforcement practices, and court decisions that
constitute the nation's existing immigration system and how these factors are currently affecting
the nation. The immigration policies enacted in the U.S. from 1965 and onward, has greatly
affected the countries of origin from which the legal and illegal immigrant population in the U.S.
are derived, the racial and ethnic demographic of the current U.S. population and the current and
future face of the U.S. as a nation.

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill that significantly changed the admittance of
immigrants to America. This bill was the Immigration Act of 1965. This act, also known as the
Hart-Cellar Act, not only allowed more individuals from developing countries to enter the US,
but also entailed a separate quota for refugees. Under the Act, 170,000 immigrants from the
Eastern Hemisphere were granted residency, with no more than 20,000 per country (Kutler).
The 1965 immigration act forever changed migration to the United States. The Immigration Act
of 1965 abolished the national-origin quotas that had been in effect in the United States since the
Immigration Act of 1924 (TAHPDX). Immigrants were to be admitted by their skills and
professions rather than by their nationality. By 1968, the annual limitation from the western
hemisphere was set at 120,000 immigrants, with visas available on a first-come, first-served
basis (Martinez 138). The Act also began the reinvigorating of the Asian American community
in the US by removing the quotas that had restricted immigration from Asia since 1882. By the
end of the 20th century, the policies put into effect by the immigration Act of 1965 had greatly
changed the face and demographics of the American population. Whereas in the 1950s, more
than half of all immigrants were Europeans and just a few were Asians, by the 1970s only 18
percent were Europeans and 35 percent were of Asian descent, while the percentages of Latino
and African immigrants had also jumped significantly (Hall 45). In reality, the bill signed in
1965 marked a significant break with past immigration policy, and would have an immediate and
lasting impact. As in the past, family reunification was a main goal, and the new immigration
policy would allow entire families to change their lives and settle in the U.S.
U.S. immigration policy continued to be one of the most controversial political and social
issues facing the nation after the 1970s. The immigration policy debate consists of two
components; legal immigration and illegal immigration which have come with challenges and

legislation. U.S. immigration policy relating to the entry of legal immigrants has remained
relatively unchanged since the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965 and the number of
immigrants permitted annually to enter the United States has increased. In November 1986, Pres.
Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) into law. As the most
extensive revision of U.S. immigration policy since the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965, IRCA contained
two major provisions. The first offered the chance to obtain legal permanent residency to those
who could prove that they had lived in the U.S. before 1982. The second major provision put
criminal penalties on employers who deliberately hired illegal immigrants. Although illegal
crossings and arrests along the U.S.-Mexico border decreased during the first few years after
IRCA went into effect, illegal immigration began to increase again during the early 1990s and
has continued through to the twenty-first century. Also, employer sanctions have proven to be
largely ineffective. To date, relatively few sanctions have been issued to employers who hire
undocumented aliens, and the penalties that are issued usually consist of small, inconsequential
fines. In late November 1990, Pres. George H. W. Bush signed into law one of the most
significant legislation regarding legal immigration in 35 years. The Immigration Act of 1990
raised the level of legal immigration to the United States to 675,000 persons annually beginning
in 1995 (Briggs 242). The new law reserved most of the immigration slots for purposes of family
reunification, although it also increased employment immigration. The 1990 act established
annual limits of 140,000 permits for permanent immigrants and one hundred thirty-one thousand
permits for temporary immigrants with skills, abilities, and experience in demand by U.S.
employers (Immigration Policy). Furthermore, the law created a new immigration lottery
system whereby immigration permits would be awarded annually to persons from nations that
historically had sent relatively few numbers of immigrants to the U.S.

In 1994 new proposals aimed at curbing illegal immigration emerged during the One Hundred
Fourth Congress. In March 1995, Congressman Bilbray introduced H.R. 1363, a proposed
Citizenship Reform Act that sought to prevent birthright citizenship to children born to illegal
parents. It did not pass. On September 30, 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Illegal
Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). This law contained
provisions aimed at reforming both legal and illegal immigration. The IIRIRA provided an
additional five thousand Border Patrol agents over a five-year period, effectively doubling the
size of the Border Patrol (Immigration Policy). The new law also created three and ten year
bans on the legal entry of illegal immigrants who had already been captured and deported. Illegal
immigration resurged as a major political issue in the 2000s, by which time an estimated 12
million illegal immigrants resided in the United States. On December 16, 2005, the Republicancontrolled U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R 4437. The bill increased the presence of an
illegal person in the United States from a civil infraction to a criminal offense, began the
construction of 700 miles of new fencing to be constructed along the U.S.-Mexico border,
increased fines against employers who hired illegal immigrants, called for the abolition of the
diversity lottery program which had been created under the Immigration Act of 1990, and
penalized persons who knowingly helped or provided assistance to illegal migrants (Immigration
The changes in US immigration policy ultimately affected the countries of origin in which
the influx of immigrants came from. Whether or not a migrants decision to move hurts or helps
the country of origin can be subjective and situational. If a country is severely impoverished and
over populated, the immigration of its in habitants may help to relieve pressure on the countrys
natural resources. In other cases migration of citizens may help in the stabilization of a host

country. Migration of certain demographic groups in society can relieve pressure on labor
markets and ease intergenerational tensions. Countries with large youth/working age populations
experience downward pressure on wages, especially among unskilled laborers, if labor supply
significantly exceeds demand. Unemployed youth populations are politically destabilizing as
well, and their migration is often welcomed by their home countries (Migration). On the other
hand the immigration policies of the United States have also had several negative impacts on
countries of origin. One such impact is famously known as the brain drain. During the midtwentieth century many scientists and other professionals from industrialized nations came to the
united states. More recently, however, the brain drain has pulled emigrants from developing
nations, including India, Pakistan, Philippines and several African nations.(Schaefer 104)
Schaefer goes on to say that the 1965 immigration Act seemed though, to encourage such
immigration. Many of these developing countries need professionals to build up their economy,
educational level and other national institutions, therefore the loss of these valuable workers are
draining and costly.
Another consequence of US immigration policy can be seen in the population growth of
certain demographics. It is projected that immigrants who come to the united States in the
period 1990-2080 and their decedents will add 72 million more people, or 25 percent of todays
total, to the population (Schaefer 107). According to the 2010 census Between 2000 and 2010,
the number of people in the United States who identified themselves as Latino grew from 35.3
million to 50.5 million (an increase of 43%). (Latinos in America) More data from the census
suggested that Between 2000 and 2010, the number of people in the United States who
identified themselves as Asian, either alone or in combination with another race group, grew
from 11.9 million to 17.3 million (an increase of 45.6%). (Asians in America) Racial and ethnic

diversity is definitely increasing in local areas across the United States. Other results from the
2010 Census show that 11 percent of the country's 3,143 counties already have become "majority
minority"less than 50 percent non-Hispanic white (PRB). And another 225 counties have
reached the "tipping point" toward becoming majority minority sometime in the next decade:
Between 40 percent and 50 percent of the population in those counties are minorities.(PRB)
Related to this, many cities and states in the U.S. have become notably more multicultural. Iowa
and Georgia, for example, have become major destinations for immigrants. However, large
immigrant enclaves exist throughout the nation with one such example being china town. Nativeborn American citizens have had opposing and favoring reactions to the demographic shifts
which have altered American society. Nevertheless, when all is said and done, the trend of public
policy is acceptance of legal immigration with the existence of highly symbolic but relatively
inconsequential efforts at restriction of immigration and deportation of undocumented aliens.
In conclusion the immigration policies enacted in the U.S. from 1965 and onward, has greatly
affected the countries of origin from which the legal and illegal immigrant population in the U.S.
are derived, the racial and ethnic demographic of the current U.S. population and the current and
future face of the U.S. as a nation. Without a stricter policy on immigration, the US will continue
to receive high amounts of immigrants that will affect popular culture and the direction American
society will take. And, for the foreseeable future the United States will, paradoxically, continue
to accept large numbers of seemingly unwanted illegal and legal immigrants.

Works Cited
Asians in America: A demographic overview.<>
Briggs, Vernon M., "The State of U.S. Immigration Policy: The Quandary of Economic
Methodology and the Relevance of Economic Research to Know" (2009). Articles and
Chapters. Paper 256.
FAIR. Current immigration in perspective: Never Before Has Immigration from One Country
Been so Massive 2010
Hall. Peter. M. Race, Ethnicity, and Multiculturalism: Policy and Practice
Immigration Policy (1976 to Present). In Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History, edited by
Richard M. Valelly, vol. 7. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2010.
Kutler, Stanley, Immigration Act of 1965 (Dictionary of American History, Third Edition; New
York, Charles Scribner's Sons, v 4, 2003) p. 230
Latinos in America: A Demographic Overview
Martinez, Deirdre. Who Speaks for Hispanics?: Hispanic Interest Groups in Washington.

Migration: To What End?: Effect on Country of Origin.
PRB Reports on America: "First Results From the 2010 Census" looks at demographic trends in
the U.S. population since 2000. July 2011)
Schaefer racial and Ethnic groups 1997 pg 97-107
TAHPDX: History Topic: Immigration & Naturalization Act of 1965: Origin of Modern
American Society