1990 Immigration and Nationality Act – It’s The Lottery, Baby!


Let’s play the lottery and see who gets to enter the country! Yes, the 1990 Immigration and Nationality Act introduced a lottery program. But, don’t be fooled. Lottery is just a fun way of saying “quota”. Quota was a bad word in the history of United States immigration policies. I guess legislators thought this was a pretty slick maneuver.

November 29, 1990, President George Bush, Sr., spoke to the nation and made these points about the bill he signed into law:

  • He respected immigrants: “… the fundamental importance and historic contributions of immigrants to our country…”
  • He appreciated the need for family unity: “… our tradition of family reunification… support for the family as the essential unit of society…”
  • He acknowledged the economic benefit of the immigrant, “… immigration of skilled individuals to meet our economic needs… cultivation of a more competitive economy… encourage the immigration of exceptionally talented people, such as scientists, engineers, and educators… promote the initiation of new business… and the investment of foreign capital in our economy…”
  • He was honest about the “bad” element among immigrants: “… swift and effective punishment for drug-related and other violent crime… aliens who, by their violent criminal acts, forfeit their right to remain in this country… jeopardize the safety and well-being of every American resident… improves this Administration’s ability to secure the U.S. border…”

Annually, the Attorney General would review statistics that had been gathered for five years from all over the country. Nations would be designated as “High Admission” or “Low Admission”.  High admission countries had at least 50,000 immigrants that had become permanent residents. Immigrant hopefuls of these nationalities would not be permitted entry unless the “lottery” was unable to be fulfilled by immigrants from the “Low Admission” nations who received preference. The purpose of this was to achieve more ethnic diversity within the United States. The gringa supposes this seems okay on the surface. Let’s dig a little deeper and see how it all works out.

These were the regions that comprised the “High Admission” and “Low Admission” zones considered in the new visa lottery system: Africa; Asia; Europe; North America (Canada and Greenland); Oceania (the geographical area including Micronesia, Fiji, all Polynesia, New Zealand, New Guinea, Melanesia, and Australia); South America; Mexico; Central America; and the Caribbean. In order for an immigrant hopeful to get a visa, not only do they have to come from a “Low Admission” country, but they also have to have a high school diploma and two years of work experience. If an immigrant hopeful was lucky enough to get a visa, their children and spouses were included. The United States considered family unity in this immigration reform policy and the gringa is happy ‘bout dat!

To get down to the specific numbers, America would issue about triple the number of visas than it did prior to the passage of this act. Most of these visas were issued to immigrants who were sponsored by employers. Guess what was required of these employers? They had to show documentation that they were unable to fill the position with an existing American citizen worker. Now, when will all these people stop griping about immigrants coming over here and stealing American jobs? It just ain’t so! Funny how the politicians know these laws exist to protect American jobs yet when an election year comes around some will campaign on headline grabbing, voter stimulating issues that are absolute lies, such as, “We’ve got to do something about immigration! Unemployment is so high and Joe Bob can’t get a job because those damn immigrants are pouring over the border and taking jobs away from good ol’ Americans!” Liar, liar, pants on fire. There are so many jobs that an humble immigrant is grateful to get paid to do that a spoiled American will turn their nose up at. That’s why most of these visas were issued!

For the first five years of this law, maximum limits were put in place. A total of 700,000 would be allowed in annually during this first five year period. Family based immigration was preferred so 465,000 visas were set aside for this type of immigrant. 55,000 visas were designated for spouses and aliens who had spouses or parents who had been legalized in the U.S. under the amnesty plan of 1986. 140,000 visas were set aside for skilled laborers to enter. 40,000 immigrants from “adversely affected” countries were given their own special group.

An example of “adversely affected” people would be the 1,000 displaced Tibetans who entered the country in 1991. On April 30, 1990, China announced the end of martial law in Tibet’s capital. For thirteen months Tibetans had suffered under military rule, harshly silenced and oppressed from any protest against the Chinese government. Military rule had existed in Tibet for decades but China cracked down in 1989 when Tibetans started getting too big for their britches and actually wanted a little freedom and independence, particularly in the area of practicing their religion, and began protesting in public. Too bad it was only 1,000 that made their way here. The gringa wishes all of them could have made it.

Did this immigration reform achieve its goal of creating more diversity in the American population? Prior to this bill, Asia and Latin America were the source nations for the majority of immigrants entering the United States. Under the provisions of this act, the American workforce was primarily supplied with Mexican and Filipino laborers. Indians, Canadians, Chinese and Africans made up the balance. Even today the Latin and Asian immigrants are the predominant ethnicities represented in the immigrant population. So it seems the goal of diversity wasn’t achieved. The most significant change was that fewer of these immigrants were poor.

However, the ethnic fabric of American medicine, science, education and sports was enriched as the result of this immigration reform. To keep these skilled workers in the country, deportation laws were relaxed as well as many stipulations that otherwise would have excluded an immigrant hopeful for qualifying for entry. One of these stipulations, which really seems to get xenophobes all worked up, is that the requirement to speak English was passed over. It makes no difference to the gringa. The gringa likes a challenge, especially a challenging conversation.

The ultimate culmination of the aftermath of this legislation is what we have today. For those who are not threatened by cultural and language differences of other people, the gringa being one those people, we shrug and say, “Who cares. Let ‘em stay as long as they’re minding their own business, working and caring for their family and community.” For the xenophobes, this is their worst nightmare. They have to suffer the indignity of pushing the number one button on their phones to select English. It’s all just so much more damn work and inconvenience that’s been created by these non-English speaking foreigners. It seems American government was socially evolving (except during campaign years when they regressed for the sake of garnering votes). Now the work is to help these hard-headed, scaredy-cat xenophobes evolve.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1990_immigration_and_nationality_act.html

http://www.nytimes.com/1990/05/01/world/martial-law-ends-in-tibet-s-capital.html

http://immigrationinamerica.org/592-immigration-act-of-1990.html

http://cis.org/ImmigrationHistoryOverview

http://online.sfsu.edu/mcollier/AAS_write/aas%20essays/1990act.pdf

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=19117

Photo credit: www.tibetanreview.net

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Where The Heck Is Immigration Reform?


Houston leads all other Texas cities in population with well over two million people sprawling over an area of almost 600 square miles.  According to Huffington Post’s March 5, 2012 article “Houston Surpasses New York And Los Angeles As The ‘Most Diverse In Nation‘” by Sara Gates, Houston enjoys a special ethnic based status among all other cities in the United States. At any time of day over 90 different languages and dialects can be heard chatting away within the city limits. According to 2010 census figures, gringos checked in at 51% of Houston’s population.  Although Houston’s Hispanic population was officially 44%, it was estimated that close to half a million illegal immigrants also live throughout the Houston area. With so many households not registered with the Census, it could easily be said that Hispanics actually enjoy a much larger slice of Houston’s population pie and could easily be the city’s predominant culture. The Greater Houston Partnership Research Department’s October 2014 report “Social, Economic and Demographic Characteristics of Metro Houston” includes a moderate growth scenario which predicts that by 2015, Hispanics will represent the largest share of Houston’s population and, by 2044 Hispanics will outnumber all other ethnic groups combined.  So, it seems that Houston’s ethnic communities continue to grow. With such tremendous growth of the Latin immigrant community, why are their voices not being heard? Where the heck is immigration reform?

I believe two reasons Houston’s Hispanic population is so large is geography and climate. Houston is often the first place an immigrant from Central or South America arrives at when they first cross the border. It’s simply convenient and economical to stay. For many of these immigrants, Houston’s subtropical climate is quite similar to what they left behind and it creates a comforting familiarity. My husband, for example, immigrated from the jungles of Peru. Houston was his first checkpoint in his new land. He did a brief stint in Georgia and Maryland but, after experiencing their winter season, he high-tailed it back to Houston where you can wear flip-flops and tank-tops in December.

Many immigrants come to the United States searching for the opportunity to build a better life. These immigrants also prefer to stay in Houston because it’s a hotbed of opportunity. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Houston consistently led the rest of the country in “total nonfarm employment” job growth from March 2010-March 2015. Many of these jobs are performed, on and off the books, by Houston’s Hispanic population. I believe if almost half a million undocumented people are contributing to Houston’s economic success, these people deserve the opportunity to become legitimate Houstonians. Immigration reform is long overdue.

It seems to this gringa that the task of trying to process the existent undocumented immigrant community is a job way too extensive for our already overburdened judicial system to take on.  That is one reason why I support amnesty.  Another reason is because I do not place all the blame of an undocumented person’s illegal status on the immigrant.  For decades Americans chose to turn a blind eye to immigrants that secretly crossed the border. The people of this country knew they were coming and made non-enforcement our country’s unofficial border policy at the Rio Grande. Suddenly, many in the United States not only want to change this unspoken policy, but they also want to demonize the undocumented workers that arrived here during a time when they were passively welcomed. Our country wanted to enjoy the fruits of low paid labor.  Our citizens wanted their landscapers, live-in nannies, and farm workers.  For decades U.S. citizens were willing to benefit from undocumented worker labor. Now, America, you refuse to play the game you started.  You want to take your ball and go home. The complicated repercussions of such a temper tantrum could very well be economically and socially disastrous.

The United States is just as much at fault for the current undocumented immigrant issue by creating a situation that enabled millions of undocumented workers to easily immigrate and build a new life. The country then needs to accept responsibility and stop crying foul. We should not rip families apart by keeping within our borders those who were born here and send the others back to their country of origin.  We do not need to create a vacuum of loss in our economy by suddenly disappearing profitable businesses and vital service industries that the community is interdependent upon.  We do not need to allow documented immigrants to point and wag their fingers and self-righteously proclaim, “If WE can do it the right way, so can you.” Stop that. It’s not helpful. As you pass judgment on this group of people you  are absolutely clueless of the conditions of their life journey and it does not solve the problem. We do not need to get on our defensive high horses and scream, “But they are taking our jobs!” We need to stop perpetrating this lie because the truth is most gringos and gringas believe they are too good for the job of busboy, housekeeper, landscaper or floor sweeper. The unspoken, politically incorrect truth is that most Caucasians simply refuse to apply for such jobs as tomato picker, fruit sorter, launderer, seamstress, nanny, busboy and gardener. The politically incorrect truth is that America has created a culture of entitlement and a corresponding population that believes those jobs are for the “illegals”.  Not only are immigrants not “stealing” anyone’s jobs, many of these people are true entrepreneurs creating their own jobs as well as jobs for others, hiring staff to work alongside them in their landscape business, housecleaning service or mobile taqueria.

Please be honest with yourself, America. Political correctness solves nothing because, although it may be a feel good/sound good message and doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, political correctness usually has nothing to do with the truth. It’s like when the esposa asks the esposo, “Does this make me look fat?”  And, yes, it most certainly does make her look fat but he knows better than to say the truth or there will be a rumble in the barrio. So, he diplomatically lies in order to spare her feelings, “No. What, are you crazy? You look great!”  And then she goes out and the whole familia starts gossiping about how Tia is probably pregnant. Look at how much weight she’s gained. See, political correctness is stupid. Without accepting and dealing with the real truth of issues, progress can never be accomplished. So, political correctness junkies, just stop it.

Our country is faced with the job of processing a vast population of undocumented workers. This presents a task so daunting that it would be another decade or two before the court system worked its way down the list to even begin processing immigrants who entered the United States under a new immigration policy today. I say the only reasonable solution is amnesty for those undocumented workers that are here now. Wipe the slate clean. Legalize the ones we have and start anew with a streamlined, simplified, affordable immigration policy that makes it possible for the impoverished immigrant to escape a hellish reality just as easily as a privileged immigrant who has the means to be college educated in America.  Our policy of rejecting the lowly has been proven wrong by the thousands upon thousands who have come here with nothing and have created their own opportunity and built their own version of the American dream. If you don’t believe me and need a strong dose of reality, I invite you to my barrio so you can see for yourself. Mi casa es su casa. The gringa will keep the café hot and the chicha morado cold while I wait for you!