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Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965
Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (Hart-Celler Act, INS, Act of 1965, abolished the national-origin quotas that had been in place in the United States since the Immigration Act of 1924. It was proposed by Emanuel Celler, co-sponsored by Philip Hart and heavily supported by United States Senator Ted Kennedy.
An annual limitation of 170,000 visas was established for immigrants from Eastern Hemisphere countries with no more than 20,000 per country. By 1968, the annual limitation from the Western Hemisphere was set at 120,000 immigrants, with visas available on a first-come, first-served basis. However, the number of family reunification visas was unlimited, and it is only now that there are any country-origin quotas for spouses of US citizens, and numerical quotas for other relatives of US citizens.
In the Democratic-controlled Congress, the House of Representatives voted 326 to 69 (82.5%) in favor of the act while the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 76 to 18. Opposition mainly came from Southern legislators. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the legislation into law. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 became law on July 1, 1968. Along with the act of 1952, it serves as one of the parts of the United States Code until this day.
During debate on the Senate floor, Kennedy, speaking of the effects of the act, said, "First, our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually. Under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration remains substantially the same.... Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset.... Contrary to the charges in some quarters, [the bill] will not inundate America with immigrants from any one country or area, or the most populated and deprived nations of Africa and Asia.... In the final analysis, the ethnic pattern of immigration under the proposed measure is not expected to change as sharply as the critics seem to think.... The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs." The act's supporters not only claimed the law would not change America's ethnic makeup, but that such a change was not desirable.
By equalizing immigration policies, the Act resulted in a flood of new immigration from non-European nations that changed the ethnic make-up of the United States. Immigration doubled between 1965 and 1970 and doubled again between 1970 and 1990. The most specific effect of the 1965 Immigration Act was to shift immigration from Europe to Asia. Immigration from the Western Hemisphere was unlimited under the 1924 Act, so the 1965 Act actually somewhat mitigated the inflow from Latin America; the large increase in immigration from Latin America to the United States in the latter part of the 20th century was due to natural population growth and not the 1965 Immigration Act.
A Boston Globe article attributed Barack Obama’s win in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election to a marked reduction over the preceding decades in the percentage of whites in the American electorate, attributing this demographic change to the Act. The article quoted Simon Rosenberg, president and founder of the New Democrat Network, as having said that the Act is "the most important piece of legislation that no one’s ever heard of," and that it "set America on a very different demographic course than the previous 300 years."
- President Lyndon B. Johnson's speech upon signing the bill
- Asian-Nation: 1965 Immigration Act & Its Effects on Asian Americans
- Ancestors in the Americas: The Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act
- Gabriel J. Chin, The Civil Rights Revolution Comes to Immigration Law: A New Look at the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, 75 North Carolina Law Review 273 (1996)
- Center for Immigration Studies: "Three Decades of Mass Immigration, The Legacy of the 1965 Immigration Act", September 1995