This comment is a continuation of my January 19 ilw. com comment on the origins of the current family immigration system a/k/a "chain migration" which was once a neutral or even a scholarly term meaning extended family immigration beyond the immediate "nuclear" family. but has now become a term of animosity and opprobrium used by immigration restrictionists to refer to non-white immigrants in general.

In my January 19 comment, I began a discussion of the paradox inherent in the fact that a provision which was originally inserted in the landmark 1965 immigration reform at the instigation of nativist Congressmen in both parties (chiefly, but not exclusively, Southern Democrats and Midwestern Republicans) in order to keep America white has had the opposite effect. See:

"Chain Migration" and the Visa Lottery Originally Promoted White Immigration. That Changed. So Trump and the GOP Now Want to Abolish Them

Now, one month after my original post, the issue of extended family immigration has become even more contentious and has come under increasing scrutiny because of Donald Trump's efforts to use the issue of relief for Dreamers from the threat of deportation (which Trump himself created by cancelling DACA almost six months ago effective March 5) as a quid quo pro for his non-negotiable demand that Congress agree to abolish legal immigration beyond the nuclear family (and to eliminate the diversity visa lottery - another source of mainly non-white immigration which has been in effect for the past two decades).

Therefore, it is instructive to look at the history of the "chain migration" provision of the 1965 law to see exactly how it became part of the law, what its purpose was, and how its nativist backers (and almost everyone else involved with this law) failed to predict what its actual effect would be.

In this discussion, I will refer to two studies by independent experts who, as will be seen below, rely on objective facts for their conclusions and cannot be justly accused of partisanship or bias on either side. The first study is by the Migration Policy Institute, entitled:

Fifty Years On,
the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act Continues to Reshape the United States (October 15, 2015)

The second study consists of an October 3, 2015 article by Tom Gjelten, an NPR policy analyst, member of the Council of Foreign Relations, and the author of a book on the 1965 immigration law. His article is entitled:

In 1965, A Conservative Tried to Keep America White. His Plan Backfired.

To begin with, nothing could be less accurate than to think that the overall purpose of the 1965 immigration act was to institute or maintain a white supremacist immigration regime or to favor Europe over other parts of the world.

To the contrary, the 1965 law was enacted at the instigation of liberal Democrats such as Congressman Emmanuel Celler (D-NY) and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass) in order abolish the openly racist "national origins" immigration quota system of the previous 1924 law which had heavily favored immigration from the "Nordic" countries of Europe (or, to use Donald Trump's notorious January 11 phrase about his own preferred source of immigrants to America 94 years later: "countries like Norway").

The 1924 law, as everyone who has even the slightest knowledge of US immigration history is well aware, had cut off immigration almost entirely from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, as well as heavily Jewish Eastern Europe and even more heavily Catholic Southern Europe.

But as President Lyndon Johnson famously said when he signed the 1965 law abolishing these racially motivated quotas, America's new policy would be to ask immigrants: "What can you do for our country?" not"In what country were you born?".

To be continued in a forthcoming post.

Roger Algase
Attorney at Law