All of this round tabling on Immigration Reform is beginning to make a lot of people in my generation wonder why we are just now deciding to address this issue that effects such a large portion of our population, economy, and overall well being. The truth is immigration reform goes way, way, way back, to 1790 but lets start in the 1960s.
In the 1960s the emerging civil rights movement begin to bring into question every policy the government enforced that was not considered equitable. Of course the immigration policy at the time fell into this category and with the help of Rep-Emanuel Cellar in New York, Sen-Phillip Hart of Michigan, and the brother of recently assassinated president JFK, Sen-Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, the quota policy of the 1920s was reformed by President LBJ in 1965.
The new law, known as the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, abolished the previous quota system and provided preferences for relatives of U.S. citizens or permanent citizens, those with skills that were considered useful to the U.S. and refugees of violence. The act did however place a cap on each category and country.
Fast forward to the 1990s and a shift in the American population was evident due to many immigrants relocating to the land of opportunity. Let me put it like this…
- 16 percent% of immigrants were Europeans, 31% were of Asian descent
- Between 1965 and 2000, the highest number of immigrants (4.3 million) to the U.S. came from Mexico
- 1.4 million from the Philippines. Korea, the Dominican Republic, India, Cuba and Vietnam were also leading sources of immigrants, each sending between 700,000 and 800,000 over this period.
Lets just say an adjustment had to made, and President Ronald Reagan saw the need for this adjustment and passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. This act permitted amnesty for qualified residents and granted temporary status to all immigrants for the first 18 months after it was passed to give everyone enough time to begin their legalization process and be able to maintain their lifestyle. The act also made some modifications to the act of 1965 allowing a little more leniency.
After the tragedies that devastated the country on Sept 11/2011, the Patriot Act was passed and amended the Immigration and Naturalization act of 1965, and basically gave the government the ability to investigate any immigrant who seemed to be participating in “terrorist activities”.
Which leads us up to 2013 were we have an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants and issues with border security, labor wages, the legal citizenship process, and a host of other problems. The debate about immigration reform has taken place for many years and we have yet to come to solution that is best for the country, but as we continue to fight let us keep in mind most of us are immigrants in one way or another.
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-Josiah D Lawhorn