1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, a.k.a. the Simpson-Mazzoli Act


And what was going on in the United States in 1986 besides big hair, parachute pants, the Iran-Contra debacle of the Reagan administration, and Falco, the one hit wonder with “Rock Me Amadeus”? Well, Congress was getting together with President Reagan for his signature on the new immigration reform bill called the “Simpson-Mazzoli Act”. Considering this mammoth piece of legislative effort contains over 41,000 words, the gringa will stick to the facts that resulted in significant change for the immigrant and American society.

It is interesting to note that today’s “undocumented worker” was yesterday’s “illegal alien” and also was the “unauthorized alien” of the 80’s. These immigrants who were already present in the country in 1986 could apply and gain legal status according to certain guidelines:

  • Immigrants had to provide proof of residency and employment since January 1, 1982
  • Immigrants had to have a clean criminal record (a felony and/or 3+ misdemeanors got you the reject notice)
  • Immigrants had to provide proof of registering with Selective Service
  • Immigrants had to meet a minimal level of understanding of U.S. history, government and the English language or be enrolled in these courses of study (if you were 65 years old or older they let you slide on this requirement).
  • Immigrants must apply within 18 months of the passage of the bill

The bill also contained provisions of temporary resident travel so these new temporary resident aliens could legally return to their countries of origin and visit family and return to the United States. The gringa is proud of this particular provision and the humanitarian recognition by the United States of maintaining healthy family bonds and connections. The Attorney General also had the freedom to waive certain requirements if it was in the interest of family unity. The gringa is certain that the United States is on the right track here.

Once an immigrant became a lawful temporary U.S. resident, they were disqualified from federally funded public welfare for five years. The gringa is sure this provision was included to satisfy the xenophobes who just KNEW these folks only wanted to come to America in order to freeload! However, individual State programs that had National School Lunch programs, vocational education programs, Headstart programs, and their own health services, as well as Social Security benefits individuals may qualify for, were not prohibited.

Because this immigration reform legalized many workers, the bill outlawed the practice of any employer hiring an unauthorized alien. However, enforcement of this provision was to be deferred during agricultural seasonal services. Hey, when the country’s gotta eat, we should all just look away, right? The gringa then must ask, “What’s an immigrant hopeful to think?” I mean really, come on, think this one through with some common sense. If it was common knowledge within the immigrant community the U.S. law meant that you could enter undocumented and law enforcement would simply ignore you if you happened to arrive at the right time of the year, what would you do? If you are an opportunity deprived and economically oppressed individual, you choose the cheapest, shortest and quickest way to get into the land of opportunity. You enter during the agricultural harvest season when the nation puts out the welcome mat and simply stay. You keep your head down part of the year and walk around boldly the rest of the year. The United States is in no position to criticize immigrants for taking advantage of the law of the land! The nation can’t be willing to turn a blind eye when it’s convenient for their belly then turn around and point the finger and blame the immigrant and ask them, “What the hell are you doing here?!”

Migrant agricultural workers who entered the nation seasonally were considered separate from the unauthorized aliens who met the above conditions. The migrant workers had a different visa with different qualifying guidelines. For the xenophobes who complain that immigrants come to this country and steal American jobs, consider this requirement of migrant worker guidelines: “Requires an employer H-2A visa petition to certify that: (1) there are not enough local U.S. workers for the job; and (2) similarly employed U.S. workers’ wages and working conditions will not be adversely affected.” It seems that plenty of jobs are available in the agricultural industry but Americans refuse the opportunity. So, don’t be pointing the “Stealing American Jobs” finger at the immigrant. This provision put the American first only allowing immigrants to fill the position when Americans refused. Also, fearful xenophobes, consider President Reagan’s 1977 radio broadcast statement, ““It makes one wonder about the illegal alien fuss. Are great numbers of our unemployed really victims of the illegal alien invasion or are those illegal tourists actually doing work our own people won’t do?” Way back then even the Gipper got it! Anti-immigration folks are recycling the same old arguments and, time after time, they are proven wrong.

One interesting stipulation regarding discrimination has the gringa scratching her head and tsk-tsking. The bill says it would be considered “unfair” for an employer to discriminate against an individual in hiring practices based on origin or citizenship. However, it would be considered NOT “unfair” if an employer preferred to hire a U.S. citizen or national rather than an equally qualified resident alien. The gringa asks, “Does not one of these statements negate the other?” Geniuses and Washington, the two do not go hand in hand. The gringa says, “Just one more law in favor of American laborers and protecting their right to work over the immigrant to use in an argument to shut up and shut down the anti-immigrant xenophobe crowd.” Mmph, take that!

For migrant workers, though, there was still an option to obtain residency status. During the 18 month registration period established by this bill, if they worked 90 days within one year in the agricultural industry they qualified for temporary residency and could travel between the U.S. and their country of origin. During the first five years of their new status, migrant workers are considered “eligible legalized aliens” and do have access to Federal assistance as well as state assistance for the first five years of their new status. Migrant workers were also entitled to legal assistance.

Cuban and Haitian entrants were granted permanent resident status if they arrived before January 1, 1982. This was because many of these immigrants were political refugees.

Considering the disaster of American children whose native mother was not married to an American G.I. and was left behind in Indochina in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and Cambodia conflict, the gringa is pleased to find that the U.S. was more socially evolved in 1986. Children qualified for status, benefits and privileges if even one parent obtains resident status, regardless of the marital position of the child’s parents.

All in all, close to 3 million immigrants were legalized. This is a significant chapter in American immigration history. However, according to the numbers, about 2 million unauthorized aliens were left running around America without proper “authorization”. Some of these didn’t qualify, so, everyone just assumed they would eventually get deported. Others would have qualified but didn’t know a thing about the program. No one really had a back up plan for this eventuality. The gringa is not surprised. I’m sure Reagan and Congress thought, “We’ve done enough. That headache can be for the next administration.” Yes, U.S. government, how the wheels turn.

Critics of this legislation called it “amnesty”.  The real definition of amnesty is “an official pardon for people who have been convicted of political offenses”. The gringa’s not sure that the term “amnesty” applies. Perhaps a better term for a path to citizenship would be “the right thing” or, maybe, “the smart thing” or, “humanity at its best”. Regardless of what you call it, there were plenty of critics then and now who considered it a big, fat failure because illegal immigrants poured into the country after its passage. The fantasy was, the gringa supposes, that politicians thought after the passage of this bill, somehow, by some miracle, there would never be another unauthorized alien that would enter the country. The gringa can only guess that perhaps they thought the immigrants that were here were the only ones that would ever want to be here and no other immigrants would arrive in the future. What a bunch of dummies.

The gringa thinks they should have expected immigrant hopefuls around the world to jump up and take notice and point their finger toward America, wide-eyed as they exclaimed, “DID YOU SEE THAT! THAT COULD BE ME!” And off they go, running as fast as their little foreign feet can carry them to the Home of the Free and the Land of the Brave. With a path to citizenship laid out and easy to qualify for, of course hopefuls would hotfoot it across the border if given the chance.

The gringa thinks the problem was not with the legislation. The gringa thinks the problem was with the lack of preparedness. It should have been, sign the bill then yell, “Katie, bar the door!” They should have seen it coming! Big sillies! They needed to have a stronger presence on the border. Why didn’t they? Money, of course. Even though there was a provision to beef up border security by 50%, it seems they still didn’t spend enough money! Or, quite possibly, as often happens in bureaucracies, the money was mismanaged. All you xenophobes who are crying about border security, well, its gonna cost you. Are you willing to pay? That means taxes to fund it. Take a look at your paycheck stub. Are you still willing to pay?

Another reason illegals continued to flood into the country is because the framers just weren’t good planners. The bill was not a failure as critics claim when they point to the fact that illegal immigration was never eradicated, but actually increased. It’s because the bill didn’t go far enough. It never occurred to the framers of the legislation that the country might just continue to grow and need more laborers. Just like any good capitalist free market system ruled by supply and demand, the U.S. labor market demanded laborers and the nation’s southern neighbors were only too happy to supply them. And that is the very reason we need immigration reform now. Most of these people are here to work and raise their families and educate themselves and their children. They need to be able to come out of the shadows and live with security as proud American citizens.

For today’s critics of amnesty who treat it like it’s a dirty word, listen to the words of a wise humanitarian: “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally,” Ronald Reagan, in a 1984 televised debate with Walter Mondale. Former Wyoming Sen. Alan K. Simpson’s opinion on amnesty? “Anybody who’s here illegally is going to be abused in some way, either financially [or] physically. They have no rights.” How do today’s Republicans feel about Obama’s efforts to bring about meaningful immigration reform? Well, just listen to what Mitch McConnell had to say: “…take amnesty off the table…”

So, then, what really happens with the issue of immigration reform? Politicians stick to their tried-and-true methods of old. When their voter base is raising hell, but the politician is too afraid to tackle the realities of legislation that affects the lives of millions of people, they worry more about getting re-elected. They don’t really care about the plight of an oppressed, unrepresented class of people who are not registered to vote. It is safer for the politician to stir up constituents with anger toward the immigrant so the voters won’t ask for immigration reform, but, rather, just scream for mass deportation. But, the politician doesn’t want to do that either. I mean, think about it. If cowardly politicians actually started deporting people, deportees may have loved ones in the community that DO vote. Politicians don’t want to risk losing that potential vote. If the politician treads the murky waters of immigration reform with legalization in mind, he alienates xenophobes, racists and labor unions from his voter base. If he goes hard line on immigration reform, he risks alienating the voters of ethnic groups who see members of their own national origin being rounded up and oppressed. What’s a vote-hungry, cowardly politician to do? He continues to stir up fear, because fear mongering directs everyone to the subject of border control. It’s much safer for the politician to support funding of border security than deal with millions of human beings. So, basically, the United States never sees meaningful immigration reform because the politicians are cowards.

The gringa remains hopeful that in Obama’s lame duck years he will deliver on immigration reform because he doesn’t give a hoot about pandering for a vote. He is in the strongest position to do the right thing. He has managed to deliver on some other controversial, hot button issues. The gringa still has faith and sits on the edge of her seat to see what happens. In closing, the gringa defers to the wise words of President Reagan who remained a friend to the immigrant to the very day he left office in 1989 when he said this: “I’ve spoken of a shining city all my political life but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and heart to get here.”

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1986_immigration_reform_and_control_act.html

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d099:SN01200:@@@L&summ2=m&% 7CTOM:/bss/d099query.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/30/in-1986-congress-tried-to-solve-immigration-why-didnt-it-work/

http://asu.news21.com/archive/2009/the_first_immigration_amnesty/

http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/Politics/1986-amnesty/story?id=18971179

http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/history/35th/thelaw/irca.html

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128303672

Photo credit:  www.fusion.net

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Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 – Open The Gates


In 1963 President John F. Kennedy showed his support for immigration reform by declaring the quota system as “intolerable.” Later that year, America would tragically lose this beloved President to an assassin’s bullet but Congress would go on to follow his lead in passing the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. In many ways, even though JFK was gone when the bill passed into law, the nation owes its diversity to him. America’s current immigration standards had their birth in the 1965 legislation that he championed and was eventually signed into law at the foot of the Statue of Liberty by President Lyndon B. Johnson October 3, 1965.

This legislation was commonly called the the Hart-Celler Act after the Congressmen who authored the bill, Representative Emanuel Cellar, of New York, and Senator Philip Hart, of Michigan, with additional support of Senator Ted Kennedy, of Massachusetts, JFK’s brother.  It sought to abolish the quota system that discriminated based on ethnic origin. Instead, the United States of America wanted an immigration policy that focused on reuniting families and importing a skilled labor class. This would be accomplished by showing preference to a resident immigrant’s family relations for clearance to enter the country. Quotas were replaced by a total annual immigrant cap of 170,000 but immigrants who were related to U.S. citizens or residents did not count toward this quota. For the first time, entire family units could uproot themselves and immigrate as a cohesive unit to the United States and join a long lost loved one who had paved the way for them.

As compassionate, family value motivated legislation, the sacrifice of separation became a thing of the past. Under the quota system, many immigrants made the painful decision to separate the family unit in order for at least one or two to emigrate to the New World and begin building a better life. Many would wait years for reunification. Joseph Errigo, who was the National Chairman of the Sons of Italy Committee on Immigration spoke before Congress and asked that the nation “abolish a system which is gradually becoming unpopular and inoperative.” At that time 249,583 Italians were on waiting lists for entry into the U.S.

Just as family members of immigrants already present in the country were shown preference for entry into the nation, professionals, scientists and notable artists did also. Skilled laborers were another desirable class of immigrant because at the time of the bill’s passage, there were not enough laborers in the U.S. to satisfy the needs of industry. Other preferred classes of immigrants who were widely accepted and not counted toward the quota were “special immigrants”. And what made a person so “special”? If you were born in an “independent” nation of the Western hemisphere, were a minister or had been employed by the U.S. government while living in another country, you could count on an open door policy to enter the United States. Restrictions still existed for Communist immigrants, but were considerably relaxed when compared to the past when a Communist couldn’t even get a foot in the door and often got a boot in the ass out the door.

Humanitarianism was definitely at play in this legislative effort to reunite families as the United States opened up the nation’s borders to the Western Hemisphere, as well as Asian and African countries. This would eventually result in the growth of an unexpected ethnic diversity in the United States. Historically, citizenship had been restricted as much as possible to white Europeans. Naturalization had, in the past, been kept to a minimum among the non-white races. The game changing legislative reforms of 1965 made it possible for this gringa’s Caveman to be here today.

People from Greece, Poland, Portugal and Italy had been earnestly seeking entry into the United States. The quota system was a significant hindrance for such immigrant hopefuls. Thanks to the many Americans who stood up for racial equality, the discriminatory practice of immigration quotas based on ethnic origin became a thing of the past. Gone were the days of preferential treatment toward Northern Europeans when it came to immigration. Nativism and xenophobia were headed out the door right on the heels of state mandated segregation.

Did the framers of this legislation realize the significance of what they were creating? Did they have any idea how much change this would bring about? Were they truly equality minded individuals who were seeking to reflect the values of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s in immigration reform? Were the great floods of immigrants from all over the globe an unexpected surprise? Perhaps an unwelcome surprise? Was there disappointment as the American population increased with large numbers of newcomers who were not as well-educated as the existent population? Was the nation socially evolving and becoming less discriminatory toward other races and ethnicities? The gringa has so many questions.

The movers and shakers of the civil rights movement were the forward-thinkers who kept the country moving along in the direction of social evolution. The first civil rights laws since Reconstruction were passed in 1957, again in 1960, then two more bills, one in 1964 and another in 1965. As state and local authorities responded in kind with their own new laws and ordinances designed to stamp out any practice of racism by making such acts illegal, immigration reform then seems a natural extension of the social change that was sweeping across the nation. Representative Philip Burton of California is recorded as stating to Congress, “Just as we sought to eliminate discrimination in our land through the Civil Rights Act, today we seek by phasing out the national origins quota system to eliminate discrimination in immigration to this nation composed of the descendants of immigrants.” The voices of the civil rights movement had been heard and the nation delivered results yet again with immigration reform.

There is also evidence of an awakening of humanitarianism within America on a scale unseen in the past. As Africa and Asia were experiencing colonization from powerhouses such as the Soviet Union, resulting instabilities created international refugee crises. Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey recognized that without immigration reform, it would not be possible to offer relief to these desperate people therefore the nation would be unable to have “the respect of people all around the world”.

Foreign policy was also a critical factor in passing sweeping changes for immigration laws. The country wanted the good will of other nations. This could very well have been in response to the Latin American countries, particularly Mexico, being fed up with the nation’s racist and discriminatory behavior and exploitation of their people as an imported labor class. It could also have been the U.S. reacting to Cold War propaganda that cast the U.S. in the light of Nazism specifically due to its race based immigration system. It also seems the nation had finally learned its lesson that discriminatory immigration policies could inflame passions against the country. There were those in the nation that finally seemed to put two and two together and think, just perhaps, Japanese militarism against America in World War II might have been incited by passions in Japan that were stinging from the racist exclusionary policy of 1924.

Many in the nation were rather unimpressed with the bill’s significance. When the legislation finally became law in October of 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson said that the immigration reform was “not a revolutionary bill. It does not affect the lives of millions… It will not reshape the structure of our daily lives or add importantly to either our wealth or our power.” Considering how dramatically the ethnic fabric of the country has changed in the fifty years since this legislation, I believe he grossly underestimated the power of this immigration reform to bring about significant change.

The reality of the bill, despite Johnson’s opinion, is that it was a drastic change from the past. The effect would be immediate and the results long-lasting. Within the first five years after the bill was enacted, refugees from war ravaged countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia would increase nearly four times their immigration total prior to the immigration reform. As people suffered poverty and political oppression, they poured into the country from places like Cuba and Eastern Europe. Within the first thirty years after passage of the 1965 legislation, the number of immigrants into the U.S. tripled as compared to the numbers who entered the country in the thirty years prior to the new laws. Within thirty-five years, the largest group of immigrants was no longer the white Europeans, but, instead, were the people of Mexico, the Philippines, Korea, the Dominican Republic, India, Cuba and Vietnam. In 1965, at the time of this bill’s passage, eighty-five percent of the United States population was white. By the year 2009, about sixty percent of the population was white. Census projections expect that by the year 2042, whites will no longer be the majority ethnic class of the American population. President Johnson couldn’t have been more wrong. The status quo of the American population was to become vastly changed.

Representative Cellar, who sponsored the bill, sat in the same camp as Johnson. He was not entirely convinced that the results of this legislation would significantly change the ethnic face of the nation. Boy, did he underestimate his own legacy. Even Attorney General Robert Kennedy was unprepared for the reality that was to come. He spoke to House immigration subcommittee members and told them, regarding Asian immigrants “… immigrants would come the first year, but we do not expect that there would be any great influx after that.” Brother Teddy seemed to feel the same way when he said, “First, our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually… It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society…” Secretary of State Dean Rusk was under the impression that only about 8,000 immigrants should be expected from India. He was only off by about 20,000. Dead wrong, these guys were just dead wrong.

A few politicians, however, could smell the winds of change all over the bill. Representative William Mill of New York penned these thoughts, “… the number of immigrants next year will increase threefold and in subsequent years will increase even more…” He was pretty close to the truth, it just took a little longer to fulfill his prediction.

In New Jersey, Myra C. Hacker, Vice President of the New Jersey Coalition, sounded off about the age old concerns of immigrants arriving, stealing jobs and lowering wages. Testifying before the Senate immigration subcommittee hearing, she said, “We should remember that people accustomed to such marginal existence in their own land will… lower our wage and living standards, disrupt our cultural patterns…” Nothing new under the sun, a fear-mongerer fearing the unknown people that haven’t even arrived yet.

Although nothing created by man can be perfect, this piece of legislation has withstood the test of time and is still, excepting a few changes, the immigration policy of the United States now. The gringa must admit that one of the most important sources of happiness in life, her beloved Caveman, can be traced back to October 3, 1965. I wasn’t even born yet, but the wheels were already in motion for my dreams to come true. Funny how life works like that.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1965_immigration_and_nationality_act.html

http://www.history.com/topics/us-immigration-since-1965

http://cis.org/1965ImmigrationAct-MassImmigration

http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/geopolitical-origins-us-immigration-act-1965

http://www.asian-nation.org/1965-immigration-act.shtml

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5391395

Photo credit:  behindthescenes.nyhistory.org

1952 Immigration and Nationality Act – The Big Red Flush


June 27, 1952 United States immigration policies changed, and not for the better. Commonly called the McCarran-Walter Act, the bill sought to exclude immigrants that were criminals, immoral,diseased, or political radicals, particularly communists. Anyone who had any association with communism could just forget about entry. The ban on all Asians was lifted, except for the Japanese.  Because of World War II, the Japanese were “out”, and the Chinese, the “good Asians”, were “in”. This was their reward for being such great allies in the war with Japan. Quotas would still exist, rigidly controlling entry according to ethnicity by nation of origin. However, if you were a good candidate for assimilation into the nation’s economy, society and political system, and, more importantly, white, odds were you’d get in. This was all done in the name of national security.

Because of the Soviet Union’s success at spreading the practice of Communism throughout China and Korea during the war, Senator Pat McCarran of Nevada, co-author of the bill, and his congressional cronies considered communism to be the biggest threat to post-war America. Now, instead of being discriminated against because of race, a new form of discrimination based on ideology emerged. Anti-communism was the underlying tone throughout the legislation.

Prior to this bill, McCarran had been the driving force behind the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950. This law required persons who were members of the American Communist Party to register with the Attorney General. The gringa is pretty certain this was not so they could be on the Attorney General’s Christmas card list. No, Big Brother was watching. Eventually, many of these folks would be rounded up as subversives and incarcerated under the authorization of Title II of that bill and its “loyalty clearance programs.” Under the umbrella of this bill’s authority, McCarran investigated Roosevelt and Truman’s administrations in efforts to flush out any communist infiltrators. The gringa thinks it’s safe to say that McCarren was most likely a passionate, commie hater.

It would also seem that McCarran did not harbor many warm sentiments toward Asians either. Journalist Phil Tajitsu Nash would look back at this legislation and conclude that it was “explicit racial discrimination against Asian immigration…” I mean, after all, annually it only allowed into the country 2,000 Asians indigenous to the area known as the “Asia-Pacific Triangle”. Countries within the “triangle” were allowed only 100 immigrants toward the quota. Also, even if a Chinese person was born in Europe, that person still counted toward the Asian quota.

Some immigrants enjoyed privileges where entry into the nation was concerned. If an immigrant already had a family member in the country, that person experienced preferential treatment in gaining entry to the nation. Such immigrants also did not count toward that ethnicity’s quota. And, if someone was from the Western Hemisphere it was practically guaranteed that person could enter the United States.

McCarran was not ashamed at all about his racist ideology. He introduced a quota system that practiced flagrant, open, ethnic bias. If you were British, Irish, or German, in other words, white, you got the preferred slot in the 70% of the immigrant quota set aside for these races. Now, if you were a skilled laborer, no matter what color your skin was, you had a pretty good chance of getting into the country. McCarran still liked the idea of importing labor that could be oppressed with no political representation as a non-citizen.

McCarran also seemed to have a great appreciation for the term “subversive”. That was a very present theme throughout the 1952 bill he co-authored. The immigration law of the land now could incarcerate a person, bar them from entry or deport them solely on ideological grounds. A person didn’t even have to do anything. They simply had to think about it or talk about it or write about. That means a person could be considered a criminal even if they were exercising their First Amendment right and talking in glowing terms about communism. Hell, the gringa would probably be considered a “subversive” and thrown in the slammer for writing something like this. My Caveman thinks it could still happen and tells me not to expect him on visiting day for getting myself in trouble with my big mouth.

The first time around, President Truman stamped the bill with a big fat veto. Remember, he viewed immigration policy from a more humanitarian point of view. He did not feel threatened by ethnic diversity. He recognized the discriminatory nature of the bill. At the time of Truman’s veto, he said, “The basic error of this bill is that it moves in the direction of suppressing opinion and belief… that would make a mockery of the Bill of Rights and of our claims to stand for freedom in the world.”

Truman rejected the bill on the grounds that it created a second-class status among citizens based on whether an American was born here or was naturalized.  Truman was so dissatisfied with the spirit of the legislation, he commissioned an investigation of the political implications of these immigration policy changes. The Presidential Commission on Immigration and Naturalization (PCIN) advised relaxing the policies of the Act. McCarran reacted to this by accusing the commission members of, wait for it, wait for it…. Yes, he accused them of being Communist sympathizers. Mmm Hmmm. Anger somebody and get an accusing finger pointed your way, labeling you a “subversive” or a “communist”. Your enemies would get their revenge by accusing you of being a Red. McCarran’s paranoia about Communism is reflected in his statement that if immigration controls were relaxed “in the course of a generation or so, [it would] tend to change the ethnic and cultural composition of this nation.” In other words, he was afraid the nation would become less white.

Despite Truman’s strong objections and veto, Congress had enough votes to support it anyway and it became the new immigration law of the land. Thus the era was ushered in of Communist hysteria which will always be remembered by rejection of immigrant hopefuls such as Colombian novelist and Nobel laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Other Nobel laureates that were barred were British author Doris Lessing and Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. They were considered “undesirable aliens” because their ideology was unacceptable. In other words, they didn’t think they way Congress wanted them to think.

This Communist hysteria would culminate in the infamous trials and 1953 executions of the Rosenbergs. So, in 1952, not only was racism alive and well in the United States, but open, state-sanctioned intolerance of a specific ideology becomes the new social trend.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1952_immigration_and_nationality_act.html

http://icirr.org/sites/default/files/IPC%20McCarran-Walter.pdf

http://immigrationinamerica.org/593-immigration-and-nationality-act-of-1952.html

Photo credit: www.foundsf.org

1943 Magnuson Act: Blueprint For Equality


December 17, the 1943 Magnusun Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt. The Chinese could once again immigrate into the United States and, even more amazing, be eligible for citizenship. Could it be that the United States was beginning to evolve socially and become less racist? Could it be that the United States had learned its lesson about insulting other nations after the disastrous and deadly outcome of spurning Japan for years?

It seems that key people banded together and put pressure on legislators, specifically, the “Citizens Committee to Repeal Chinese Exclusion and Place Immigration On a Quota Basis”. Quite a mouthful. Although these people may have been socially enlightened for their time, the gringa thinks they may have lacked the creative minds necessary to come up with a snazzier title for their think tank. This group of public figures formally organized May 25, 1943 with the purpose to reverse the racist legislation of 1882 that had sought to remove from white America an ethnicity that was singled out because of its racial, linguistic, religious and cultural differences.

During the 1930’s, author Pearl S. Buck’s book “The Good Earth”, a Pulitzer Prize winner, began to change public sentiment toward the Chinese as it depicted the privations suffered by the people of rural China. Where social evolution could not reach the hearts of the American people, it seems sympathy could. After suffering through the years of the Great Depression, the American people had obviously been humbled and could now overcome racial differences as they were able to relate to the sufferings of other human beings.

Time magazine also featured articles exposing Japan’s invasion of China. With American’s despising all things Japanese after Pearl Harbor, this was a prime example of just one more thing in common between the American and Chinese people that resulted in sympathetic feelings.

Politically speaking, Roosevelt’s motives most likely did not originate from the heart and soul of a man who wanted to right a racist wrong. His concern was what was in the nation’s best interest. As President, that was his job. If Roosevelt didn’t want to lose China to America’s enemy, Japan, the best thing he could do would be to perform a significant act that would pacify any doubt in the mind of China that the U.S. was their friend.

You see, at that time Japan was using United States history to make inroads with the Chinese. Japan’s cunning propaganda plan was to play up ethnic similarities between themselves and the Chinese and also remind China of the racist exploitation they experienced with the Americans and the insult of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Roosevelt’s motives were not because he was an apologetic non-racist, it was because he was a capitalist opportunist. In other words, Roosevelt was a typical American. The State Department even issued a public statement regarding the political necessity of this act: “The repeal of this act was a decision almost wholly grounded in the exigencies of World War II, as Japanese propaganda made repeated reference to Chinese exclusion from the United States in order to weaken the ties between the United States and its ally, the Republic of China”. In other words, the United States needed this critical wartime alliance with China. So, Roosevelt formed a committee to rally everyone in the nation to get on the pro-Chinese bandwagon.

Roosevelt’s committee was headed up by none other than Pearl S. Buck’s husband, James Walsh. I guess that seems fitting since she’s the one that got this party started. The committee consisted of over two hundred people who put pressure on groups larger and more powerful than themselves. These groups in turn would lobby Congress to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Social and professional elites of the country used their connections to advance the cause of the Chinese immigrant. When the moral argument of racial equality failed, the argument of patriotism and winning the war persuaded the hesitant.

The passage of the Magnusun Act of 1943 repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, allowed for Asians to become naturalized citizens, and established quotas to allow Chinese immigrants entry into the United States. The citizenship gate that had historically swung open only for free, white, men and remained closed to other ethnicities, had now become unhinged. This, however, did not mean that domestic racism had ceased. Although many in the nation may have been softening, the labor unions could only see the Chinese as potential competition among laborers and a threat to wages. Once the work had been completed to change the laws, the work began anew to change the hearts and minds of the people. This work was necessary to reverse racist opinions toward the Chinese that had been about one hundred years in the making. Until that happened, equality, although the law of the land, was, in reality, a myth.

The United States has always been designed to be a capitalist utopia with power vested in the hands of the wealthy. Historically, powerful, white men managed the masses for their own benefit as well as to strengthen the nation. Racism is a tool. If it is profitable to be racist, racist practices take place. If it is not profitable to be racist, the leaders reverse course. Racism seems to be fused with capitalist political agendas. But that doesn’t mean every American, and every American politician, thinks this way. The writer of the bill, Senator Warren G. Magnusun, spent the rest of his congressional career working to improve relations between Americans and the Chinese. Men and women like Magnusun are just the kind of socially evolved legislators the United States needs to grow into a nation that practices true equality.

In 1943 it only took seven months for the power of just one small group of wealthy, socially influential people to sway public opinion and effect significant legislative change. Why, then, have the social elites of today not succeeded in the same for the many non-white groups in the United States who experience racism on an oppressive level? I guess ethnic groups need to find a way for their cause to be either profitable or in the best interest of national security. That’s how it worked for the Chinese.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1943_magnuson_act.html

http://immigration.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000766

http://immigrationinamerica.org/431-citizens-committee-to-repeal-chinese-exclusion.html

http://immigrationinamerica.org/591-immigration-act-of-1943.html

http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=8993

Photo credit:  http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/

Wartime Measure of 1941 – Entry Into The U.S. By Businessmen’s Approval


By 1941, World War II was raging across Europe and the mood of the good people of the United States was pretty surly. The Defense Department was in need of a study supply of goods and services to supply the nation’s military that was engaged in a conflict of unprecedented scale in modern history. Every person in America was barely getting by after the lean years of the Great Depression. Big industry was raking in war profits hand over fist and the little guy wanted his share. President Roosevelt just wanted everyone to behave themselves, report to work and churn out the mechanical parts, machines, steel, coal, transportation and ships the country needed to keep our soldiers moving and the nation bankrolled. This created the conditions which resulted in legislation creating yet another change to the country’s immigration policies.

In 1941, labor unions were seriously flexing their muscles. Beginning in January and lasting until April, laborers at the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee dug in for a long strike over whether the company would be a “closed shop” or if workers could opt out of union membership. Bethlehem Steel Corporation of Pennsylvania, which had a long history of profiting from government defense contracts as well as a long history of organized workers, held a five day strike in March over the election of new collective bargaining representatives. In the following month of April, over four hundred thousand Appalachian coal miners organized a strike over a wage dispute. After a month of such shenanigans President Roosevelt got involved to assist in negotiating an agreement.

American citizens were quickly developing anti-labor sentiments. Strikes throughout the nation continued to keep the population embroiled in controversy no matter which side of the fence someone sat. Most Americans were simply happy to be employed after the jobless years of the Great Depression. The nation looked to its elected leaders to resolve these conflicts once and for all so everyone could focus on the American way of life, earning a paycheck then cashing and spending it. The U.S. government’s solution to all this industry mayhem was to pass the Smith-Connally Act on June 25, 1943 (also called War Labor Disputes Act) which gave the president authority to seize and operate private industries critical to manufacturing war products. This power was exercised by President Roosevelt twice within two months of its passage, and later, in October, when there was a strike at Air Associates, Inc.

In June President Roosevelt exercised emergency powers to commandeer North American Aviation in California as a result of a labor strike. August 20th, motor coach and street car operators affiliated with the AFL went on strike forcing over 400,000 Detroit workers who depended on public transportation to walk, hitch-hike or car pool. Also happening in August, workers at New Jersey’s Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company rejected an agreement put forth by the National Defense Mediation Board panel and a seventeen day strike commenced. Later that month President Roosevelt seized control of the plant.

Many Americans were not supportive of the disruptions created by organized labor and strikes. Typical cultural sentiment was to just get to work and not cause trouble. Do your part as an American and keep the country moving forward. Not only did the majority of the population support legislation that kept unions in check, they were also desiring policies that would prevent foreign rabble-rousers from importing their Socialist ideas and throwing a monkey wrench in all this progress. Although the economic tide was turning, people were still suffering privations because of how disastrous the Great Depression had been. Overall, at this time, the United States was seeing economic improvement but full-fledge prosperity was still some time away.

As a result of these concerns, the United States thought new immigration legislation was necessary for national security. The 1941 Wartime Measure of June 20th provided for refusal of entry for any immigrant if an American diplomat or consular thought their purpose was to cause trouble. It was rather vague in interpretation and application. It would eventually be exercised to its fullest extent after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Two months after the attack, by the power of  Executive Order 9066, approximately 120,000 Japanese were forced into internment camps on American soil. Of those prisoners, sixty-two percent were U.S. citizens. This injustice, yet, only ten people were ever convicted of spying for Japan and they were Caucasian.

Two months after the passage of this Act, President Roosevelt met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Newfoundland to create their war effort plan known as the Atlantic Charter. Considering the amount of time and planning for two heads of state to meet at a neutral location, it is safe to assume that at the time legislators were working on this new immigration policy, they did so with full knowledge it was in preparation for the country moving toward entering the war. To get into America now, you had to pass muster of the personal opinion of an American diplomat or consular. Who were these diplomats? Were they even qualified to make such a determination of a person?

One American diplomat at this time was W. Averell Harriman. He was a U.S. diplomat who carried on dialogue with the Soviet Union during the conflict of World War II. During 1932-1946 he was chairman of the board with Union Pacific Railroad Company. An enviable position probably secured for him by his daddy, railroad bigwig E.H. Harriman. Hey, the gringa understands all about nepotism. It is regularly practiced here in the barrio with Junior heading out to work right beside Big Daddy on a regular basis. But, does working as a railroad wheeler-dealer qualify a person to decide if another person will make a good U.S. citizen?

Harriman also served as an officer of the National Recovery Administration from 1940-1941, which assisted in developing Roosevelt’s New Deal scheme. Specifically, he advised on the provisions that eliminated what would be considered “cut throat” competition and establishing “fair practices” in industry and trade. He also sat on the National Defense Advisory Commission as well as the Office of Production Management.

He made a career as an effective negotiator between the United States and Great Britain as well as the United States and the Soviet Union. Harriman’s profile was the typical resume for American diplomats. Boardroom negotiators have what it takes to navigate treaty talks with other nations.

American diplomats sound like great guys in stiff suits. The gringa’s just not so sure they would really be the go-to guys that would understand the heart of an immigrant, who probably didn’t even own a suit. In a nutshell, as a capitalist utopia run by the rich white guys, the gringa thinks the immigration changes of 1941 were appropriate for the times, but enacted and enforced by the wrong folks. But, that’s no surprise. War has always resulted in reactionary legislation that, in hindsight, causes the people to say, “What the hell were we thinking?”, from the Wartime Measure of 1941 to the Patriot Act of 2001. Say it ain’t so.

Addendum:  I would like to thank Samir Chopra for his encouragement and his own contribution to the story of American immigration. For an interesting read, please visit his blog and read the following article “The Cruelest Cut Of All: Punjabis Are Not White“. This link will take you directly to it…   http://samirchopra.com/2015/04/09/the-cruelest-cut-of-all-punjabis-are-not-white

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1941_wartime_measure_1.html

http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/library/primary-sources/1941-wartime-measure

http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=138

https://history.state.gov/milestones/1937-1945/war-time-conferences

http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2149&context=lcp

http://newdeal.feri.org/survey/sg41578.htm

http://www.britannica.com/topic/Smith-Connally-Anti-Strike-Act

http://www.historyonthenet.com/ww2/japan_internment_camps.htm

http://www.britannica.com/biography/W-Averell-Harriman

Photo credit:  wikipedia

1940 Nationality Act – Hypocrisy and Double Standards


In the late 1930’s the United States was once again scratching away at the parchment writing out the legal parameters of the Nationality Act of 1940. The problematic parts of the legislation are certiain conditions that, if not met, a person’s citizenship “automatically expires”, with no due process.

What was going on in the country that had lawmakers going to such efforts as to write new laws? With the country in the throes of the Great Depression, its economic effects rippled throughout the world. People from other countries did not have the means to emigrate. Also, because of the restrictive immigrant laws of 1924, many immigrants had been deported. As the threat of a second World War intensified throughout Europe, refugees began to challenge America’s restrictive immigration policies, although rarely successful. The gringa wants to know the facts. Digging a little deeper is required.

By the 1930’s, the religious landscape of the nation had changed. America has been historically viewed as a nation founded by, created by and governed by Christians. By the year 1930, however, the population of Jews outnumbered the ranks of the Episcopalians and Presbyterians combined. Eastern European Judaism was the predominant Jewish culture in the U.S. They assimilated into American culture but designed community programs in order to maintain their distinctly Jewish heritage. Despite their “Americanism”, many schools and colleges blatantly discriminated against Jews. With public figures like Henry Ford openly criticizing the patriotism and character of America’s Jewish population, it’s no surprise that violence was commonly visited upon Jews during this period of U.S. history.

America was becoming infatuated with it’s own national identity. Folk culture became popularized with the Library of Congress even beginning to collect American folk songs. American intellectuals churned out thoughtful manifestos such as “I’ll Take My Stand”, by the Southern Agrarians who desired a return to the simple way of life of agriculture. In direct contrast was Lewis Mumford’s “Technics and Civilization” which was more forward focused on developing technology to advance U.S. capitalism through a new age of modernism.

Such modernist ideas were reflected in the architecture and art of the 1930’s. The 1939 World’s Fair in New York made it clear to the world that America wanted to leave behind the anorexic economy of the Great Depression and this would happen through the development of “the world of tomorrow”. This “world of tomorrow” was pictorialized in America cinema and television shows of the era. This was the birth of the superhero, like Superman and the Lone Ranger. Hollywood also played a critical role in producing forms of entertainment that also served as propaganda to lift American spirits out of the defeatist spirit of the Great Depression. This was when the world was introduced to an American original comedy genre, slapstick and screwball. The financial disaster of the Great Depression gave way to fantasy and longings for a modern, futuristic world.

The nation’s economic solution for the people’s relief from the suffering of the Great Depression was the New Deal. This was not specifically a cure, but more of a stabilizing plan. This would enable people to get their feet back under them so they could focus on what Americans do best, make money. Because social and economic salvation came through the government, American perspective toward the government began to change. Americans who previously were suspicious of too much government control and power were now more inclined to believe that the intentions of Big Brother had the citizens’ best interest at heart.

As people in the United States are looking forward, the Japanese are looking back. After years of chafing at the political insults America meted out to Japan through immigration policies, on December 29, 1934, Japan renounced the Washington Naval Treaty it had entered into with America in 1922.

Five years later, 1939, Germany invades Poland. After a year of appeasement fails, aggression by Nazi Germany begins the Second World War. September 5th of that same year, the United States declares its neutrality. The U.S. had complete confidence in its isolationist position because by that time we already had the A-bomb thanks to refugee Albert Einstein that America welcomed to its shores in 1933 as he fled from the Nazis. And thus begins a flood of European immigrants seeking to escape the horrors of war which inspired the nation, known as the great hope of the hopeless, to once again reveal its true capitalist colors and reform the nation’s immigration and citizenship policies with the 1940 Nationality Act.

Section 201 of this act declares citizenship at birth for any child born outside the U.S. of at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen. This parent must have lived within the U.S. or any of its territories for a minimum of ten years, with at least five of those years being after the age of sixteen years. In order for the child to maintain U.S. citizenship status the child must live within the U.S. or any of its territories for five years between the ages of thirteen and twenty-one years. These, of course, being the formative years of primary education and higher education. The nation wanted assurance that during those critical years the child was in the U.S. being indoctrinated with educational propaganda in the public schools in order to shape the mind of the child into a good patriot. If these residential conditions are not met, the child’s U.S. citizenship automatically expires without due process.

Section 401 contains wording that provides for the revocation of U.S. citizenship if a person votes in a political election of another country. This particular requirement created legal challenges that resulted in inconsistent action by the U.S.

In 1958, U.S. district courts ruled in Perez v. Brownell. Clement Martinez Perez was a U.S. citizen born in El Paso, Texas who traveled back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico, residing in either country for extended periods of time. At some point he voted in a Mexican election. Perez lost his U.S. citizenship based on the court’s finding that Congress can revoke citizenship regardless if the action qualifying for the loss of citizenship is intentional or unintentional. The Supreme Court upheld the decision based on the Necessary and Proper Clause of Art. 1, 8, clause 18 of the Federal Constitution which states that voting in a foreign political election means a withdrawal of U.S. citizenship. The purpose of this clause is so that the U.S. can avoid international embarrassment by Americans getting involved in foreign affairs.

Nine years later the United States reverses its position. Beys Afroyim, who arrived in the U.S. in 1912, a Polish immigrant, and was naturalized in 1926, also became an Israeli citizen in 1950. He voted in six separate Israeli elections. He applied with the U.S. Consulate in Israel for an American passport. At first he was refused based on the same legal position attached to Perez in 1958. Taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court, the judge determined that Afroyim had not shown intent to lose his citizenship when he participated in Israeli elections. However, this was a direct contradiction to the published court opinion of the Perez case.

Due to the country’s special relationship with the nation of Israel, Americans can hold dual citizenship here and in Israel. That is not the case with Mexico. The gringa suspects the reasoning behind the special relationship with Israel is founded in religion and guilt.

Proof of the nation’s guilty conscience resonates in the words of President Truman after the war, “I urge the Congress to turn its attention to this world problem in an effort to find ways whereby we can fulfill our responsibilities to these thousands of homeless and suffering refugees of all faiths.” Now, if guilt is the reason for the special relationship between Israel and America, the gringa is okay with that. After all the United States should have a guilty conscience for not opening the immigration gates for the lambs who were trying to escape the slaughter.

However, if religion is the basis for this international special relationship, the gringa says, “We gots us a problem.” According to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” If religion is the basis for a special relationship between the United States and Israel, resulting in laws being applied in a prejudicial fashion between Americans of different ethnicities, I believe that is some pretty clear evidence of racism as well as a violation of the spirit of the Constitution.

The gringa thinks the District Court of 1958 and the Supreme Court of 1967 has got some splainin’ to do because it seems America’s “world of tomorrow” was one of racial double standards.

Sources:

https://americansabroad.org/files/3013/3478/0295/18-04-2012_1318_971.pdf

http://www.prothink.org/2008/03/27/the-1940-nationality-act/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perez_v._Brownell

http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/immigration-timeline#1930

http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/twenty/tkeyinfo/jewishexp.htm

http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=2&psid=3452

http://americasbesthistory.com/abhtimeline1930.html

Photo credit: www.designarchives.aiga.org

The Birth of America’s Immigration Policies


Trying to find out just what the current laws are regarding United States immigration has led me on a much convoluted path. I decided the only way to truly understand this mess was to go back to the very beginning, 1740. That’s where it all began. As a British colony, the first immigration law, The Naturalization Act of 1740, also known as The Plantation Act of 1740, was officially passed into law by the Acts of Parliament (Commencement) Act 1739 and received Royal Assent June 1, 1740 (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plantation_Act_1740). We have to go back to the beginning because, just as a pearl takes its shape after layer upon layer of nacre has coated the original grain of sand, so our nation’s attitudes toward certain classes and ethnicities of people have been affected by layers of immigration law.  We cannot understand today if we are ignorant of yesterday.

The 1740 law enacted a rather simple, practical and economical process for the colonial immigrant to become a naturalized citizen of England. It granted citizenship to any foreign Protestant colonial immigrant to American colonies if the following condition was met: reside in any colony for seven years without an absence of longer than two months. The immigrant would then be considered a natural-born subject of the British Kingdom. The person was required to take a simple oath of allegiance, although exceptions were made for Quakers and Jews. The oath went something like this:  “I, (insert name), do sincerely promise and swear, that I will be Faithful and bear true Allegiance to his Majesty King George II. So help me God.”  To seal the deal there would be a profession of Christian faith and payment of two shillings, which, today would be a little more than six bucks (www.britishislesdna.com). A new British subject was created for seven years, six bucks, and a promise. And just look where we are today. Good grief.

Somewhere along the way the American colonists became unhappy with England’s immigration policy and in 1776 it became a formal matter of grievance against King George III, the successor of King George II, whose reign oversaw the passage of the Naturalization Act of 1740. This grievance was addressed in the Declaration of Independence: “He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands” (www.HeinOnline.org). And thus the rebellion began.

Fourteen years later on March 26, 1790, the First Congress of the United States enacted the new country’s first naturalization law. The legislation’s criteria determined immigrants had to be “free white persons of good character”. Children born abroad were considered “natural born” United States citizens if the father was a U.S. resident (www.library.uwb.edu). This was the seed from which America’s current tangled mayhem of immigration policy has grown. The classification of free white person would exclude from citizenship any non-European Caucasian. Among the ethnic European Caucasian class, women, indentured servants, and slaves would also not be eligible for citizenship because they were not considered “free”. So, once one of the ol’ gringos decided he wanted to be a citizen he had to establish his good moral character. This was done by residing for two years within the United States and one year in one particular state. Then he could file a Petition for Naturalization with his local courthouse. When the court was convinced his character met the legal standard, he recited an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and, bing, bang, boom, he was an American citizen (www.sjusd.org). Once again, a simple path to citizenship. And this one didn’t even cost two shillings. It only cost a white guy his time. Now, I don’t know about you, but this gringa finds it puzzling that back in the late 1700’s a group of illegal aliens arrived on North America’s soil, performed hostile acts to forcefully wrest control of the land mass from existing indigenous peoples, then had the audacity to enact laws determining who lived free and equal in America. I mean, the nerve of some people!

The distinct difference between the British Naturalization act of 1740 and the United States Naturalization act of 1790 has to do with gender, social status and ethnicity. The British act allowed for any foreign Protestant to become a citizen with no distinction of gender, ethnicity or social status. Although it specified Protestant faith as a requirement, it also allowed for certain religious exceptions. The United States act, although free of any religious discrimination, instead chose to discriminate against all women, indentured servants, slaves and all races other than European Caucasian. It seems to me that the country the founding fathers of the United States envisioned was one that was owned and managed by the white men of property. All women and non-European Caucasian men were to become the labor class with no rights to property or even the right to vote. As a woman I most certainly do not like that plan. It’s very likely if this gringa had lived in 1790 America I would have run off from the settlement to join the natives. I think they treated their women better.