Evolution of U.S. Immigration Policy
Over fifty years have passed since the introduction of the Immigration Act. However, it is clear that its effects do not correspond to the legislators’ original intentions. The Act has eliminated immigration quotas. In subsequent years, the immigration patterns have significantly changed. The number of Americans born outside the country has tripled. Unlike previous years, nowadays, the population has become more diverse. The current paper seeks to examine the major changes in immigration policy since the passage of the law, how new immigrants differ from previous ones, their contributions to U.S. identity, and the overall attitude towards race and newcomers, referring to the studies of such experts as Ira Berlin and Mae Ngai.
The USA is deservedly regarded as a nation of immigrants. Even Native Americans are related to immigrants as their ancestors came to North America thousands of years ago. Like current immigrants, early immigrant groups left their homeland to escape domestic issues and enjoy new opportunities in the USA. The settlers wrote letters back home, describing streets covered with gold. Many immigrants came to the USA because of equality, freedom, and wealth.In the 1800s-1920s, people migrated to American shores from Europe (Daly 386). Unlike today’s immigrants, old ones easily adapted to America. Ngai disagrees with the attempts to expel immigrants after they have settled and assimilated into the new country (59). The modern immigrant’s life is filled with past memories, the constant struggle, and ongoing learning. Today, migrants from all over the world work hard to master a new language, get along with locals, and cope with unfamiliar things.
Immigration to the USA reached a new peak in the mid-20th century. From the cultural perspective, Greek, Russian, and Italian immigrants have significantly differed from old immigrants, and it has been difficult for them to assimilate and integrate into the new society. It has occurred due to the fact that their social identity has been rooted in history for many years (Berlin). The majority of immigrants has been living in poor urban neighborhoods and tenements. They have freely spoken their native language, practiced religion, and followed traditions. Unlike old immigrants, new ones have been poorer. Illiteracy even in own language has become commonplace among these individuals. Some of them have fled the native country because of persecutions and lack of democracy.
Ira Berlin has dedicated most of his studies to immigration issues and highlights the importance of comprehensive legislation in this regard. The Immigration and Nationality Act developed in 1965 is as significant as the Voting Rights Act signed in the same year, particularly, in the transformative period for the U.S. society (Berlin). It has been estimated that in the early 2000s, 10 percent of African Americans were children of immigrants or immigrants who were long denied a past (Berlin). The author claims that legislators and policymakers should have done their best to eliminate discriminative elements promoting a knowingly false vision that all immigrants are second-class people. Berlin also questions immigrant legislation and highlights the fact that it failed to resolve the issue of nation’s identity.
The debates and disputes over the immigration policy focus on the unlawful status of newcomers. Many studies highlight the fact that even a legal statute does not make immigrants immune from hostility and aggression. Xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments were commonplace in the past. Therefore, a new immigration policy should support the centrality of autonomy as a claim to national rights and theory of power (Ngai 12). More than half of Americans consider that newcomers have strengthened the U.S. society, while others perceive new immigrants as a significant threat to America’s values, customs, and traditions. In the1960s-1970s, the number of individuals coming to the USA increased from 3.3 million to 4.5 million (Berlin). The country has become more experienced, and thousands of non-European immigrants have integrated into the society mostly due to the abolishment of the national origins quota system (Ngai 3). One’s opinion on ethnicity and race has shaped attitudes towards newcomers. Due to personal thinking and consciousness, the residents’ views on discrimination and racism are biased. Because of racial issues, most newcomers have lost faith in the bright future. They still fear that their actions, attempts, and initiatives will bring nothing but failure. Because of unequal treatment and uncertainty, newcomers have lost faith. Nowadays, Americans have mixed views on the immigrants’ impact on the American society. Ngai argues that the reformers should determine conditions under which foreigners can enter and remain in the country, thereby protecting themselves from possible exile by the government (1). While some people see immigration as a negative phenomenon in the economic and criminal contexts, others view it as a positive phenomenon in the humanitarian context.
To conclude, the number of illegal individuals has grown in recent years, and the USA has been transformed into the nation of immigrants. Hostility and anti-immigrant sentiments have increased with the new wave of immigration that coincided with the industrial revolution. Nostalgia has a strong influence on newcomers’ cultural pursuits. However, immigrants and their children have already enjoyed a great opportunity to show their worth in various spheres of life.