Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Part 1 1970s Law Laid Groundwork for out-of-Control Immigrations

1970s Law Laid Groundwork for out-of-Control Immigrations

1970s Law Laid Groundwork for out-of-Control Immigrations
Jon E. Dougherty,
Monday, May 17, 2004
"Illegal immigration is out of control."
That phrase was uttered by Leonard Chapman, commissioner of the old Immigration and Naturalization Service [INS], at a time when apprehension of illegal aliens by the U.S. Border Patrol had more than doubled, to 766,000 arrests.

The year was 1965 – a decade after Congress eliminated the "national origins" quota system with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act [INA], and a decade after the measure's chief Senate sponsor, Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., said, "Our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually; under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration remains substantially the same."

Kennedy's claim was either incredibly naïve or overly optimistic; according to the U.S. Census Bureau, immigration — legal and illegal — between 2000 and 2003 amounted to 2.3 million people.

The Kennedy-inspired initiative not only set the stage for a massive influx into the United States of immigrants, it also has changed the balance of power.

Decades afterward, millions of immigrants – legal and illegal – continue to flood the U.S.

The immigrant overload has been a boon to the Democratic Party – which is set to have an electoral lock on the White House if demographic trends continue.

What was it about the 1965 INA that has led to mass immigration nearly 40 years after its passage?

There are several reasons, say immigration reform experts, and most all of them can be blamed on federal government rule-making.

For one, says the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank advocating immigration caps, the law created "a seven-category preference system for relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens and for persons with special occupational skills needed in the U.S." It also established "a category of immigrants not subject to numerical restrictions: immediate relatives (parents, spouses, children) of U.S. citizens."

The law also limited Eastern Hemisphere immigration – China, the Middle East, Africa primarily – to 170,000 a year, while limiting Western Hemisphere immigration – Canada, Mexico, Latin America – to 120,000. But, CIS noted, "neither the preference categories nor per-country limit were applied to the Western Hemisphere."

There is another aspect as well. The law was passed in the midst of a civil rights struggle, "when an admission system based on national origins seemed out of step with national values," the think tank said.

Still, the core portion of the law that ultimately led to more immigration from Mexico and its southern neighbors had to do with changes in previous limitations on "core" family members. Says a CIS analysis: "The change to family reunification shifted the source of the immigration flow away from the developed, western countries toward the closer and more overpopulated developing countries."

The Future and Beyond

The INA did not remedy any immigration problems the U.S. was experiencing. In fact, it only made matters worse. Into the 1970s and 1980s, immigration – especially from regional Third World countries (which were largely Hispanic) – grew. The decade between 1980 and 1990 was the nation's second-highest in terms of immigration; some 8 million people came to America, mostly from Latin America and Asia.

"I guess if you traced the immigration debacle, you'd have to go back to the Carter administration, and the Reagan administration as well," Steven Camarota, a lead researcher for CIS, tells He adds that the immigration problem has only worsened since.

The Reagan administration led the next big change in immigration policy — one reformists believe was an even bigger mistake than the policy changes of the 1960s.

In 1986, Congress passed and Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act. One tough measure made it a crime for any employer to knowingly hire an illegal alien. But the law also granted an amnesty to all illegal aliens currently in the country, and it created a new classification of "seasonal agricultural worker."

Rather than solve the problem of immigration, the law only increased it. Formerly illegal workers who had been given amnesty and could now remain in the U.S. left the low-paying jobs they had previously filled. That left many unfilled positions, which meant a new crop of immigrants were needed to fill them again.

In short, the 1986 amnesty established a vicious circle of immigration.

Historical Failure

U.S. policies dealing with mass immigration have historically resulted in failure, which is why the problem continues to expand.

David Ray, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), says that despite some politicians' best intentions, most immigration policies for decades were born to fail.

"If you start with the 'Immigration Reform and Control Act' of 1986, it was a bitter pill to swallow for those of us who believe in enforcing our immigration laws," he said. "The only way we were able to get laws on the books that fine employers for hiring illegal aliens – which was a first in American history – was to accept a compromise to grant amnesty for up to three million illegal aliens who were currently in the country."

That set a precedent for others, Ray said, that translated into this axiom: "If you sneak into the country, and if you're patient enough, eventually the government will cave in and give you [citizenship]."

After signing the 1986 amnesty law, President Ronald Reagan would declare: "This country has lost control of its borders. No country can do that and survive."

The immigration crisis didn't start with Reagan, and there were others who saw the problems mass immigration could – and would – create decades before today's reformists went to work trying to solve the problem.


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