Type: History
Pages: 8 | Words: 2225
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This is a research paper covering a past piece of legislation from the U.S Congress. In this paper, I will solely focus on the Immigration Act of 1965. American Immigration is the influx of non-American residents to the United States. In the US, immigration-related services, benefits, data, investigative and enforcement responsibilities are managed by the Department of Homeland Security (Homeland Security, 2010). There are two types of visa immigrants in the US; nonimmigrant visas and migrant visas. The research paper will include a write –up of the piece of the legislation. A write-up is a published review, account or notice on a given subject. In this case it will revolve around the Immigration Act of 1965.The research paper will also detail the history which will include how the legislation came to the limelight. The research paper will equally state who sponsored the bill and verify if there are any special interest groups involved in the legislation. In case of the presence of interested groups involved, the research paper will note who they are and the interests they had. The research paper will similarly justify if the legislation was passed and if so by what margin. In a situation where the bill failed to pass, the research will outline the reasons as to why it failed. In case it failed the research paper will inform if the bill has been resubmitted. Upon passage, the research paper will give the results of the bill’s passage. In conclusion, the research paper will analyze the positivity or the negativity of the legislation to the relevant persons, other legislations and the entire US constitution.

Discussion: The write-up of the Immigration Act of 1965

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 also referred to as The Hart-Cellar Act abolished the national origins quota system that was set up in the Immigrations Act of 1924 and modified in the Immigration Act of 1952 that had structured American immigration policy since the 1920s. It replaced it with a preference system that focused on immigrants’ skills and family relationships with citizens or residents of the U.S. Numerical restrictions on visas were set at 170,000 per year for the Eastern Hemisphere with a maximum of 20,000 per nation and 120,000 annually for the Western Hemisphere not including immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, nor “special immigrants” (including those born in “independent” nations in the Western hemisphere; former citizens; ministers; employees of the U.S. government abroad).The  visas were also set on a first–come, first- served basis (Webchron, 2003; Hein online, 2010). The Act established the basic structure of US immigration law, abolished the national origins quota system and reaffirmed the family reunion as the basis of U.S immigration policy. It placed a numerical limitation to Western immigrants for the fist time and further limited immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere. It considerably gave preference to relatives of American Citizens and permanent resident aliens who had special skills (Center for Immigration Studies, 1995)

Before the 1920’s, immigration into the US was controlled by the provisions of the National Origins system (Asian nation, 2010). However, there were no significant restrictions on any type of free immigrants who had an interest of staying in the US. In 1882, immigration policies were initiated when the US congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which only barred the Chinese laborers from staying in the US (America.gov, 2008). By 1917, certain criminals, people suffering from different diseases, Asians, illiterates and some radicals had been barred from the US. But immigration continued to grow in the US through the 19th and 20th century. This was characterized by an economic downturn and fears of a flood of European immigration. Activism and criticism rose against immigration and in 1920, the US congress, the House of Representatives voted 293-46 to suspend all immigration for a period of 14 months. However the senate refuted the idea of null immigration and instead replaced with a bill sponsored by Senator William. Congress agreed with him but the president at the time, Woodrow Wilson was against it.

The Immigration Act of 1924

President Wilson was succeeded by President Warren who willingly passed the bill in 1921. The  passage brought into force numerical limits, quotas on immigrants and the law was enacted in 1924 and named as the Immigration Act of 1924. The 1924 Immigration Act set quotas that limited annual immigration from particular countries. The legislation identified immigrants as a “non-quota” immigrant; this category included wives and unmarried children (under 18 years of age) of US citizens, residents of the Western hemisphere, religious or academic professionals, and “bona-fide students” under 15 years of age. In addition, those not falling under the above categories were referred to as a “quota immigrant” and were subject to annual numerical limitations. College students, professors and ministers were however exempted from the quotas. The legislation also barred aliens to US citizenship and permitted white persons and Africans with American descent to become natural citizens. This was to bar the Japanese and Asians from the US. For quota immigrants, the Act stated that preference would be given to family members of US citizens and to immigrants who were skilled in agriculture. However, Immigration in the US continued rising to almost 280,000 of new immigrants by 1929. But the great depression and the Second World War reduced the number of immigrants in the US significantly. This made all the Americans to presume that the era of increasing immigration had ended. Consequently, Congress repealed the 15 statutes that excluded immigrants from China, made Chinese aliens eligible for naturalization and gave a minimal immigration quota to the Chinese.

In addition, the congress erased all racial and ethnic bars to the acquisition of American citizenship in 1952. Special provisions were also made for refugees. In 1948, Congress had passed a bill admitting 202,000 DPs. In 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, was passed over Truman’s veto. Again, President Harry S. Truman had established a commission which established Liberal Immigration policy goals that were critical in the passage of the immigration act of 1952.The commission’s report, “who we shall welcome”, was largely disowned by the congress although through it  groups of immigrants, mostly refugees were administered into the influx. Under this legislation, many European intellectuals, such as Jean Paul Sartre, could not lecture at American universities. However, in section 212(d) (5) –a future president had discretionary parole power to admit unlimited numbers of aliens with a good reason. To this effect, some 3.5 million immigrants legally entered the U.S when the Immigration and Nationality Act was in force. These immigrants included: a third quota immigrant, two-thirds nonimmigrant; Asian immigrants, Family members of native-born or newly naturalized Asian Americans and others from Europe (America.gov, 2008). In the 1960s, Portuguese, Greeks and Italians were complaining that immigration quotas were discriminating against them in favor of Western Europeans (Ludden, 2010). They wanted to be considered equally with their western counterparts on priorities of entry into the land of opportunities.  All these superseded the set natural immigration limitations. 

Protest of Democratic Party and John F. Kennedy

This led to an outcry and the Democratic Party through the then President, John F. Kennedy who was a supporter for change took up the cause. On Italian migration, Kennedy referred to it as intolerable. President Kennedy original proposal was based on skills but after much lobbying, emphasis changed to families-based. The Congress was considering how to tackle this problem of illegal immigration. President Kennedy sponsored a bill and forwarded his legislative recommendations for immigration reform to Congress on July 23, 1963.In his bill; President Kennedy forwarded his proposed provisions to eliminate the national-quota system. But the hearings of the bill were delayed and the bill expired with the adjournment of the Eighty-eighth Congress. In 1964, President Kennedy was assassinated and his successor President Johnson provided more vigor in the fight of illegal immigrants. Others on the other hand favored a change in the law for personal reasons; their relatives were on long immigration waiting lists because of small quotas for their countries like Italy.

However, there were few radicals who did not approve the immigration Act of 1952 to be improved. These radicals were like the democrat senator Sam Ervin who insisted that the immigration act of 1952 was not discriminatory but reflected the US. He proposed that the Immigrants could be assimilated into the US society. This assumption was overlooked by the Congress on passing the bill. This was demonstrated in January 13, 1965, when President Johnson reiterated the recommendations of the Kennedy bill to the Congress. Then, hearings began on February 10, 1965 and the Congressional debate centered on a proposed numerical limitation of Western Hemisphere immigration, which was opposed by the Administration and its supporters. Congress men, who were mostly republican, opposed the bill on seeing that the new system meant drastic changes.  The republican Vice  president candidate Rep.William Miller of New  York stated  that if the president have his way  and  the bill  becomes law, the  number of immigrants  would triple within a year and increase  relatively in the  coming years. On the other hand, senate immigration Chairman Edward Kennedy reassured his colleagues that the bill will not flood United States   with immigrants, it will not distort US ethnic mix, will not relax the admission standards and that American workers will not loser their jobs .The debate by the Congress was successful and hence passed. The senate on the other hand voted 76 to 18 in favor of this Act and the House voted 326 to 69 in favor of the Act. The bill was then signed by the US president, Lyndon Johnson on October 3, 1965 at Liberty Island New York.

The Immigration Act of 1965

On signing the bill, President Johnson approved that it was the one of the most important acts of that Congress and that of the administration. He appreciated the efforts of all the congress members and the former president John F. Kennedy who introduced the bill(Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, 2007). He however minimized the Act’s importance by stating that the bill to be signed is not a revolutionary bill and that it will neither affect the lives of Americans nor add any economical value to the US. Notable is the fact that the bill was not popular with the public.

The legislation had a lot of significance upon its enactment and was limited to the following results: The Immigration Act of 1965 corrected the discrimination in immigration. According to the Act, Immigrants were granted residency in America based on their skills or for family reunification. Immigrants are further accepted according to and not restricted to the following preferences: unmarried adults whose parents are American citizens, scientists, gifted professionals, spouses and off springs of permanent residents and artists. The last preference was accorded to the following: married offspring of American citizens, refugees from communist countries or from Middle-East, skilled/unskilled individuals of occupations lacking workers in America, and siblings of adult citizens. The Immigration Act of 1965 became law was enacted on July 1, 1968. However, the implementation of the law did not immediately terminate discrimination in immigration but initiated the collapse of this discrimination (Webchron, 2003). Specifically, the legislation abolished the national origins system set up in the Immigration Act of 1924 and modified by the Immigration Act of 1952. It equally retained the principle of numerical restriction. It however increased the categories of persons who could enter “without numerical limitation” into the land of opportunities, US. 170,000 immigrants were allowed annually for the Eastern Hemisphere with a maximum of 20,000 immigrants per nation. On the other hand, 120,000 immigrants were allowed annually for the Western Hemisphere with no national limitations. This increased the annual maximum number of immigrants from 150,000 to 290,000.

For the first time, a numerical limitation was placed on immigration from the Western Hemisphere and nationality was favored against job skills. It also created a non-preference category for immigrants who invested at least $ 40,000 upon coming to the US. The immigration Act of 1965, Voting rights Act and the establishment of the Medicare and Medicaid systems are the three major legislative accomplishments of 1965 which denoted the high-water mark of 20th century American liberalism. Most Scholars regarded the passage of the immigration act as an example of unintended consequences and have maintained their argument against it. This is further elaborated on considering the president’s speech while signing the bill where he seemed not to know its effects. He was quoted saying that he was told by his officials (New American Nation, 2010). He and his advisors considered the enacted bill as a correction of the injustices done on immigrants from both the Southern and Eastern Europe in 1924 and 1952 immigration Acts. They hoped to put people of all nations on an equal footing for immigration to the United States. They similarly considered it a symbolic act which extended civil rights across US borders. They failed to read between the lines, the expansion of non-quota admissions. As a result they opened the doors for the influx of huge numbers of immigrants from Latin American and Asia. Similarly, once such immigrants became permanent residents of the US, their relatives had a legal preference of entering the United States as second preference immigrants. Consequently after the second preference became citizens, subsequent immigrants came into the US after every five-year’s grace period. Others entered via an exemption of numerical preference.

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