The Civil Rights Revolution Comes to Immigration Law: A New Look at the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965
74 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2008
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 may prove to be the most consequential of the Great Society civil rights initiatives. The Act removed a preference for whites which had been a central feature of American immigration and nationality law since 1790; the resulting diversification of the immigrant stream will make America a "majority minority" nation within a few decades. Many commentators contend that the diversification that resulted from race-neutral immigration policy was unanticipated, undesired or both, from the perspective of the Congress that passed the Act. This article reexamines the question, drawing on legislative history as well as interviews with key legislators such as Gerald R. Ford, cabinet members including Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, and other participants in the development of the Act. The article concludes that it is more likely that Congress, largely the same one that passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, rejected the idea of America as a white nation. Congress actually intended to eliminate racial discrimination, and welcomed the diversification that it knew would result.
Keywords: Immigration, Civil Rights, Chinese, Asian Americans, Equal protection
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