Unintended consequences: The 1965 Immigration Act and its nativist contradictions for 2016

By ann summers

Would you go “back to where you came from” even if you’re from here, so that you could return to enjoy(sic) the rights of full citizenship and even though those you encounter on a daily basis discriminate against you for superficial reasons and make your life as difficult as it was before you left.

On the 50th anniversary of the The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (Pub.L. 89–236, 79 Stat. 911, enacted June 30, 1968), nativism remains a wedge issue much as it had been for the Founders. And so many unintended consequences actually brought the very thing conservatives wanted to avoid and yet are what they stir fear about now. Those who tout some nostalgic brand of family values now wish to break up families in the name of nativist exclusion and the hoisting of anchor babies in the name of bureaucratic control and racial animus.

As much as we’d like to “stand our ground” or have the power to remove those who offend us in everyday life without our own exit, that visceral feeling however distorted seems to play well for the base of the GOP as a meme for political and electoral success and has become militarized in police services used to segregate populations on often flimsy anti-humanitarian grounds. That we have weekly television programs on daily life in the Prison Industrial Complex only distorts the cultural meaning of what Weber called an “Iron Cage”.

The United States has long struggled to define what it really means to become American and which immigrants qualify. George Washington declared the country was open to “the loppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions,” but the idea persists that America is a “Judeo-Christian nation,” that being a Muslim American is a contradiction in terms, and that some nationalities are inferior to others….


Intolerance of all kinds will persist along with difference and the rule of law seems both barrier and enabler in a democracy that makes its manifest destiny exclude demography. So many bad Christians are willing to distort their ideological preferences and apply them to civic responsibility, only to seek some public relations absolution via the media.

Like the Price is Right TV game show perhaps one is willing to prostrate oneself for automobiles and one wonders whether Trump’s desire to deport 11 million immigrants could be sweetened by offering them the 11 million noncompliant VW turbo diesels as lovely parting gifts since both apparently are deceptive imports worthy of immediate exportation, much like the British transportation of Australians.

The party of family values and resistance to racial quotas in employment apparently wishes to contradict some important historical changes that the 1965 act represented in family reunification (however unintentionally favorable to people of color) and against Anglo-Saxon preference, ignoring that we are all the product of “anchor babies” at one generational moment or another.

This same demographic irony is now played out in the EU with economic and war refugees with the usual constraints on sanctuary or transit being barred or imprisoned using national borders, race, language, and religion. It’s not as romantic as Casablanca, nor is it as patriotic given the fractures among religious ideologies that often become distorted in the US by the simply ignorant and fearful among the culturally illiterate.

Elections will change this but it will take decades of Moral Mondays as apparently many constitutionally sworn citizens entrusted with keeping order and writing laws have decided that conflict rather than comity is more appropriate for this nation, and ignorance of even our national history on a 50th anniversary rationalizes the abuse of the public trust.

( 2015 )

In the subsequent half century, the pattern of U.S. immigration changed dramatically. The share of the U.S. population born outside the country tripled and became far more diverse. Seven out of every eight immigrants in 1960 were from Europe; by 2010, nine out of ten were coming from other parts of the world. The 1965 Immigration Act was largely responsible for that shift. No law passed in the 20th century altered the country’s demographic character quite so thoroughly. But its effects were largely inadvertent. The law’s biggest impact on immigration patterns resulted from provisions meant to thwart its ability to change much at all.

The United States has long struggled to define what it really means to become American and which immigrants qualify. George Washington declared the country was open to “the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions,” but the idea persists that America is a “Judeo-Christian nation,” that being a Muslim American is a contradiction in terms, and that some nationalities are inferior to others….

Such assurances did not sway conservative critics of the reform, but a last-minute change in the legislative language did alleviate their fears of a massive African and Asian influx. The original version of the 1965 Act, cosponsored by Senator Philip Hart of Michigan and Representative Emmanuel Celler of New York, both liberal Democrats, favored those immigrants whose skills were “especially advantageous” to the United States. Conservatives, led by Representative Michael Feighan, an Ohio Democrat, managed to change those priorities, giving visa preferences instead to foreigners who were seeking to join their families in the United States. Feighan, who chaired the House Immigration subcommittee, argued that a family-unification preference in immigration law would establish, in the words of a glowing profile in the American Legion magazine, “a naturally operating national-origins system,” because it would favor immigration from the northern and western European countries that at the time dominated the U.S. population.

Feighan and others were wrong. The heightened emphasis on family unification, rather than replicating the existing ethnic structure of the American population, led to the phenomenon of chain migration. The naturalization of a single immigrant from an Asian or African or Hispanic background opened the door to his or her brothers and sisters and their spouses, who in turn could sponsor their own brothers and sisters. Within a few decades, family unification had become the driving force in U.S. immigration, and it favored exactly those nationalities the critics of the 1965 Act had hoped to keep out, because those were the people most determined to move.

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8 Responses to Unintended consequences: The 1965 Immigration Act and its nativist contradictions for 2016

  1. wordcloud9 says:

    Getting “Not Found” message?

  2. wordcloud9 says:

    Ahh – I had a glitch posting my last blog – was afraid it had happened to you too.

  3. bron98 says:

    “A liberal’s paradise would be a place where everybody has guaranteed employment, free comprehensive healthcare, free education, free food, free housing, free clothing, free utilities, and only law enforcement has guns.

    And believe it or not, such a place does indeed already exist: It’s called Prison.”

    Sheriff Joe Arpaio
    Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff’s Office

  4. Ah yes, St. Joe of the house of Arpaio, that great philosopher who is an expert on love, life and the pursuit of happiness.

    Maricopa County Sheriff’s officials misspent $99.5 million in restricted jail funds over the last eight years, according to a Wednesday morning briefing by county budget officials who spent the past six months researching the issue.
    Budget officials said $84.7 million was misspent from the detention fund, while another $14.8 million in inmate-services funds were misspent.

    A federal judge ruled….that the office of America’s self-proclaimed toughest sheriff systematically singled out Latinos in its trademark immigration patrols, marking the first finding by a court that the agency racially profiles people.

    The lawyer’s fees are now in, and that little misadventure cost the County $51 million.

    Inmate abuses and misuse of funds in the jail system he oversees have cost the county nearly $200 million over the last 15 years.

    When Maricopa county is compared with other cities and counties in Arizona, crime per capita has gone up on his watch. Report of the Goldwater Institute.

  5. pete says:

    “Front Page” Arpaio proves that it’s not what you do, but how people think you’re doing.

    Looks like we have a winner in the Speaker of the House contest.

  6. bron98 says:

    “When asked, for instance, to explain “why you are a serious candidate and what your qualifications are to be commander-in-chief,” Trump’s essential answer was: “Obviously, I’m doing pretty well. I’m No. 1 in every poll by a lot.” He is good — in other words — because people say he is good. Something becomes true for him only when others believe that it’s true. That is not the mark of a self-confident, self-respecting individual.

    Donald Trump may well be described as a narcissist, a braggart or a windbag. But an egoist? Definitely not.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peterschwartz/trump-and-the-meaning-of-egoism_b_8205174.html

  7. bron98 says:

    Dr. Stanley:

    If Isaac Newton was known to molest young boys, would that diminish his theory of gravity or his invention of the calculus? Would it make those two things untrue? No of course it wouldn’t so what is your point?

    The author that you use as a source would agree with Sheriff Joe’s quote. He is a libertarian. I am a libertarian, well sort of but if Sheriff Joe is misusing public funds he needs to go. It’s really quite simple. But nevertheless it doesn’t diminish the fact that he is correct about the nature of welfare and socialism.

    On another topic: What I find interesting is that if you give a man a $10 bill at a polling place and tell him to vote for a particular individual you are guilty of a crime. But give a man $30,000 a year in government services and then tell him that if he votes for the Republicans he will lose his $30,000 government stipend it isn’t a crime.

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