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Four Factors Drive Migraion and Immigration Law - Not Race
Peggy Sands Orchowski -- Immigration Expert Peggy Sands Orchowski -- Immigration Expert
Washington, DC
Thursday, July 18, 2019




Four Factors Drive Migration and Immigration Law – Not Race

By Peggy Orchowski

It seems that for those obsessed w racism as the basis of everything American, a new book "Closed Gates" now feeds their mantra that even immigration policy and laws are totally based on racism. Or as Nancy Pelossi put it recently "Making America all white again".

But for anyone who actually THINKS intellectually, historically and with rational broad-mindedness, there are obviously broader universal causes that drive migration and immigration.  I focus on four drivers in my book "the Law that Changed The Face of America": economics, technology, demographics and politics.  All four are dynamic and interrelated.  I trace them through five general periods of U.S. immigration laws.

Colonial days till 1880s:  The driver was the development of a new country. The management of immigrants (ie: deciding which newcomers from other countries and colonial states, could settle, work and become a citizen in another colonial state) was left to each state.  It was arbitrary and discriminatory.  Migration especially from abroad was physically difficult and mainly done by males.  It was about finding work and leaving the homeland forever.  Involuntary immigrant slaves were part of that history.

1880s-1920s  The drive behind the largest surge of migrants in US history was the disruption in Europe and collapse of the empires.  Steam ships and airplanes made migration easier.  The largest numbers came from southern Italy and Eastern Europe – orthodox Catholics and rural Jews.  Immigration was about the freedom to work.

At the same time, in the U.S. immigration had becaome a national jurisdiction. Official ports of entry at Ellis Island and the Immigration and Naturalization Services were established.  Not everyone was admitted – especially those who were not work able because of chronic physical or mental disease.  Even children were turned away. Immigration was still about work.  Immigration law was under the jurisdiction of the Labor Committee.

1923-1964   First comprehensive immigration law the National Origins Quota Act was based on three movements:  1) workers rights to bring standards to the unrestricted labor conditions in America where child labor was normal;  2) fear of Communism being imported from Eastern Europe;  3) fear of the Mafia being imported from Sicily.  Restrictions on the number of immigrants from all nationalities and non-Christian religions other than northern Europeans (excepting Germans) and Mexicans continued until 1964.  Now immigration was driven by politics.

1964-2000  Two strong movements drove the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 – by far the most liberal immigration laws in the world and still the gold standard.  They were the civil rights and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which forbade government discrimination of any kind based on race, religion, creed or national origin.  The biggest question for legislators regarding the INA was how to treat applicants for immigration from every nation in the world equally (the solution was the 7 percent rule that still exists today).  The other movement was the horror of genocide and the Holocaust. That drove the unique "family unification" priority for green card applicants.

Immigration took on the tenor of social justice when its jurisdiction was moved to the Judiciary Committee – even though immigration is not a civil right.  Because the majority of visas went to family members, new temporary non-immigration work and study visas were established that now bring in millions every year.  Almost none were enforced,

2000-present.  The terrorist attacks of 9/11 made immigration suddenly a top priority of national security. The INS was replaced by two bureaus in a newly formed Department of Homeland Security.  The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) took over the role of naturalization and assimilation; the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was the first agency in history charged with interior enforcement.

With renewed prosperity and technology, most legislators today consider the INA to be largely obsolete.  New emphasis on admission of skilled workers is a common suggestion, not equality of nationality representation.  Other advocates argue that any migrant seeking a better life should be able to come in regardless of numbers or visa availability.  Threats from terrorists feed the dynamic as does the rights of globalized workers.  Immigration law is again facing a period of transition.

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“We can’t know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been”. Vice President of the Brookings Institution Darrell West wrote in recommending Peggy Sands Orchowski’s books   "The Law That Changed The Face of America: The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965" and  "Immigration and the American Dream: Battling the Political Hype and Hysteria" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015 and 2008 respectively).  Peggy is a credentialed Senior Congressional journalist in Washington DC. She is available for interviews, article assignments and speaking engagements about immigration   porchowski@hotmail.com

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