advertisement

How the civil rights movement helped change US immigration law

Monday, August 26, 2013 | 1:35 p.m. CDT

NEW YORK — When 250,000 marchers converged on Washington in August 1963, the issues were jobs and freedom.

Now, as crowds come together to mark the 50th anniversary of that seminal event in the civil rights movement, those issues have been joined by others, including immigration reform, which wasn't on the political radar then the way it is today.

"They were fighting for equality, and that's exactly what we're fighting for," said Mikhel Crichlow, 28, a native of Trinidad and Tobago now living in Brooklyn,. Crichlow said he was going to Washington for the commemoration.

The push for comprehensive immigration reform was heard from the speakers' podium on Saturday, when tens of thousands marched to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and down the National Mall.

"It doesn't make sense that millions of our people are living in the shadows," said Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who was a speaker at the 1963 event. "Bring them out into the light and set them on the path to citizenship."

Immigrant advocates came from near and far to be part of the commemoration. They included Casa de Maryland, founded by Central American immigrants in the D.C. area in 1985. The organization connected the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have A Dream" speech to the dreams of immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally and are looking for legal status.

"One of the big reasons immigrant groups wanted to participate was to show the connection," Shola Ajayi, the group's advocacy director,said. Ajayi also said Casa mobilized hundreds of people to attend.

The link between the civil rights activism and America's immigration reality brings history full circle as the demographic change being seen across the United States owes some of its existence to the decades-ago movement.

It was with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 that the federal government radically altered immigration policy, opening America's doors to the world after decades of keeping them shut to entire geographic regions. That decision planted the seeds for the demographics explosion the country is living in now, a shift that historians say happened in part because of a hunger for change and equality created by the civil rights movement.

The movement "broke through the whole aura of political stagnation that was created by the McCarthy era and the Cold War, and allowed us to imagine another" world, Mark Naison, professor of African-American studies and history at Fordham University in New York,said. "It was the civil rights movement ... that broke through the logjam and allowed people to talk about real issues in our domestic lives."

Immigration activist Renata Teodoro, who came here from Brazil as a child, studied the tactics of the civil rights movement and incorporated them into her own activism. The Boston resident has long been a proponent of granting legal status to immigrants who, like her, were brought to the U.S. as children.

The civil rights movement, she said, humanized the issues of the day, and, by doing so, "that changed the culture, that's what changed a lot of hearts and minds."

While the U.S. has long been a welcoming place for immigrants, that hasn't always been the case. It is true that a wave of new arrivals flooded U.S. shores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but a movement to restrict who was allowed into the country took hold as well.

In 1882, Congress enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first major federal law to put immigration limits in place and the only one in American history aimed at a specific nationality. It came about in response to fears, primarily on the West Coast, that an influx of Chinese immigrants was weakening economic conditions and lowering wages. It was extended in 1902.

Other laws followed, like the Immigration Act of 1917, which created an "Asiatic Barred Zone" to restrict immigration from that part of the world, and the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, which limited the number of immigrants from any country to 3 percent of those people from that country who had been living in the U.S. as of 1910.

The 1924 Immigration Act capped the number of immigrants from a particular country at 2 percent of the population of that country already living in the United States in 1890. That favored immigrants from northern and western European countries like Great Britain over immigrants from southern and eastern European countries like Italy.

It also prevented any immigrant ineligible for citizenship from coming to America. Since laws already on the books prohibited people of any Asian origin from becoming citizens, they were barred entry. The law was revised in 1952, but kept the quota system based on country of origin in the U.S. population and only allowed low quotas to Asian nations.

The American children of Italian and other European immigrants saw that law "as a slur against their own status" and fought for the system to be changed, said Mae Ngai, professor of history and Asian-American studies at Columbia University. In fighting for change, they looked to the civil rights movement.

The political leaders who agreed with them saw it in the same terms, as a change needed for equality's sake, as well as to be responsive to shifting relationships with nations around the world.

Speaking to the American Committee on Italian Migration in June 1963, President John F. Kennedy cited the "nearly intolerable" plight of those who had family members in other countries who wanted to come to the U.S. and could be useful citizens but were being blocked by "the inequity and maldistribution of the quota numbers."

Two years later, when signing into law a replacement system that established a uniform number of people allowed entry to the U.S. despite national origin, President Lyndon B. Johnson said it would correct "a cruel and enduring wrong in the conduct of the American nation."

Stephen Klineberg, sociology professor at Rice University in Houston, said the civil rights movement "was the main force that made that viciously racist law come to be perceived as intolerable," precisely because it raised questions about fairness and equality.


Like what you see here? Become a member.


Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Comments

Dave F August 26, 2013 | 5:50 p.m.

Enough is enough is ENOUGH.

Citizens of the Unites States have had enough of the Obama administration--the lies and cover-ups, flagrant disrespect for the truth and his anti-American activities and beliefs.

Today we are asking you to stand up and be heard and
seeing what’s happening? Everything so many of us have been saying has come to light; is the presidency is a fake, a fraud, a barrel full of liars and are they outright traitors. You can add to that: a total DISASTER.

Look at the damage he's brought upon America:
• Privacy of innocent Americans is being obliterated thanks to agencies like the NSA spying on us;

• Votes were suppressed—even STOLEN—as the IRS targeted conservative political groups during the last election; There is much credence that unknown numbers of non citizens voted in the presidential elections, as there wasn’t sufficient ID checks in the voting booth and that absentee ballots are to easy to compromise. Blue states run mostly run by Liberal lawmakers has achieved successful challenges, so no significant Identification was used to differentiate illegal voters.

• Our right to bear arms under the Second Amendment is a grave threat as this administration attempts their gun-grab at every chance it gets. Tyranny has come alive; sedition is running like thick slime through Congress.

• Now the Obama government is using the Trayvon Martin case to launch his attempt to obliterate Stand Your Ground laws in 30 states;

• First Amendment rights are being trampled with wiretapping of the press;

• 60% of doctors will retire in the coming 3 years as a direct result of Obamacare—a death sentence to many; According to reports the Obama program, will recruit 1500 more IRS agents to enforce this health program.

• Obamacare, only in the initial stages, is already a catastrophe, collapsing on itself; even some Democrats have mentioned “It’s a Train wreck ready to happen”?

(Report Comment)
Dave F August 26, 2013 | 5:51 p.m.

• 33 million illegal’s who broke the law coming into our country could soon be rewarded with amnesty—jobs will be stolen from hardworking Americans while wages are reduced; Directed by the Department of Justice illegal aliens are being released, instead of being held for deportation. That then they will be able to petition for family members to arrive here and the bulk will become the Taxpayers lament as they will eventually have to be public charges, needing dialysis, organ transplants and expensive medical treatments.

• Racial divide is growing bigger not smaller. Obama close associates continually race-baits America and has recently stepped it up, fueling hatred with his own badly informed views on the Trayvon Martin case; Obama’s Socialist mentors have divided the country like never before.

• Benghazi blood still runs like a river through those who conspired to conceal the truth.—and still, justice has not been served but swept under the carpet;

• He freely gives guns and money to criminals and terrorists in Egypt...and positions in the White House to radical members of the Muslim Brotherhood who influence Obama's policies;

• Hundreds of millions of our taxpayer dollars have been spent by Obama his family and friends on lavish vacations;

(Report Comment)
Dave F August 26, 2013 | 5:52 p.m.

• Has the gall to throw rock star parties at the White House—after closing it to the public. At every chance he breaks the law and flaunts mass hypocrisy. He and his buddy Eric Holder should be held accountable.

Oh yes, his true nature has been fully exposed in a way that makes your blood run cold. Even Obama's most diehard defenders are questioning his motives.

Election Integrity Is Under Assault
The integrity of our elections is under systematic assault by leftist activists and politicians whose objective is clearly to manipulate the elections for their own gain. Judicial Watch investigators have evidences that special interests, government entities, and even the current administration are:
• Refusing to force states to clean their voter rolls of deceased and moved voters;
• Fighting state efforts to require voters to show a photo ID at the polls;
• Failing to enforce our federal laws against illegal immigration and effectively ending the deportation of illegal aliens, thereby swelling the population of potential illegal voters.
And as Judicial Watch uncovers more and more evidence of the breadth and scale of this effort, it is becoming clear that the objective of what we are seeing is to get leftist candidates elected. That’s why Judicial Watch is taking action by suing states to force them to clean their voter rolls. We invite you to join our effort now by taking action to support our Election Integrity Project.
The time of our democracy is coming to an end, as the Obama government is growing out of proportion and not which is approved by the U.S Constitution. . Learn more about the rot in Washington, State assemblies by reading the reports at capoliticalnews.com/ other areas of interest you should investigate are numbersusa.com and judicialwatch.org.

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.

advertisements