President Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality act amendments of 1965 in a ceremony at the Statue of Liberty which enacted from the immigration bill (H.R. 2580) to Public Law 89-236 (79 Stat. 911) (Public Law 89-236; 1965). His remarks on 3rd of October 1965 in his speech regarding this bill and immigration were (Johnson Lyndon B, 1966 p. 1037-1040)
â€¦.Our beautiful America was built by a nation of strangers.
â€¦The land flourished because it was fed from so many sources - because it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples.
â€¦.This bill says simply that from this day forth those wishing to immigrate to America shall be admitted on the basis of their skills and their close relationship to those already here.
â€¦..Today, with my signature, this system (national origin quota) is abolished.
The Immigration and nationality act of 1965 became a law effective from1st July of 1968. The quota system is removed during the transition period from October 1965 to 1st July of 1968. The INA amendments of 1965 to the 1952 immigration and nationality act abolished the national origins quota system and made other modification in immigration policy. This act primarily based on reunification of families and needed skills (Vialet, 1980, p. 24). Even though the INA amendments of 1965 abolished the quota system, still maintained the numerical restrictions of 20,000 for each Eastern Hemisphere country with overall limit of 170,000 with a seven-category preference system and overall ceiling of 120,000 for Western Hemisphere without any country quota system or a preference system. The major change in this 1965 immigration policy was the highest preference given to family relations without any numerical limitation as one of the main selection of immigrants (Public Law 89-236; 1965).
The amendments also considered the grievance of labor unions about the rise of unemployment of U.S. citizens. According to this law the employer has to advertize the job for 90 days and make a case to give the best reason for hiring an immigrant (Kalaitzidis, 2009, p. 102). This was another major change in the INA of 1965 was the requirement of employment clearance who wish to come to U.S. on the basis of employment preference.
After the enactment of law, many immigrants entered the U.S. on the basis of first come, first-served basis within the preference system by keeping the per country limit. The change of preference system, requirement of labor certificate and 120,000 numerical limits showed much impact on western hemisphere immigrants. Many immigrants from western hemisphere used family preferences when their skills would not qualify to obtain labor certificates. Many immigrants who could not go in this preference system entered the U.S. without documents (Keely, 1974, p. 253).
In 1965, 20,040 immigrants from Asia legally entered U.S. out of total 296,697 immigrants and in 1969, it increased to more than three times to 72,959 in 1969 out of total 358,579 immigrants (Kurian, 2007, p. 61-63). The distribution and characteristics of immigrants changed since 1968. During 1961 to 1965, majority of immigrants were from North America and Europe. The combined average percentage of immigration from North America and Europe during this period was 83% and from Asia only 0.9% during this time. In 1966 to 1968, 76% entered from North America and Europe and 15% from Asia. However this composition was completely altered since 1969. From 1969 to 1976, the annual average percentage of Asian immigrants doubled and reached to 30% and the combined percentage from North America and Europe was 61% only (Keely, 1974, p. 254). This clearly shows that the majority of immigrants coming to the U.S. changed from Europe to Asia since 1965. It is obvious that the Asians were benefited from this law.
In 1976 congress amended the 1965 immigration act by implementing the preference system, requirement of labor certification and per-country limit of 20,000 for immigrants from Western Hemisphere while keeping 120,000 overall limits (Public Law 94-571, 1976).
In 1978 congress implemented a ceiling for Eastern and Western Hemisphere combined into one world-wide ceiling of 290,000 with the exemption of immediate family members of U.S. citizens (Public Law 95-412, 1978).
Refugee act of 1980
During the 1960s and 1970s, many refugees and asylum seekers came to the U.S. from South East Asian countries due to political instability. About 400,000 refugees and asylee from Cuba, 340,000 from Vietnam, 110,000 from Laos and many thousands of refugees and asylees from former Soviet Union, Cambodia, Yugoslavia, mainland china and Taiwan entered the U.S. which gave initiation to the Congress to act upon refugees and asylees (LeMay, 2006, p.164).
Between 1975 and 1980, refugee and refugee related issues became major concern for the Congress In response to increasing refugees and asylum-seekers, congress passed the Refugees Act of 1980 in order to systematize the refugee policy. The amendments made to immigration and nationality act to enact the refugee act of 1980 on March 17, 1980 (Public Law 96-212, 94 Stat.102). This act considered the UN definition of a refugee made in 1951 Geneva convention which states that 'a person who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country'(Wilkinson, 2001. p. 2). According to this act, refugees and asylum-seekers were removed from the preference category and established a regular system of admission and kept a ceiling of 50,000 per year which increased the total legal immigration number from 290,000 to 320,000. (LeMay, 2006, p.165).
However due to dire economical situations in Cuba, during Fidel Castro government, as many as 125,000 Cubans many of them from jails and mental health facilities departed from Cuba's Mariel Harbor for the U.S. in 1980, and boatloads of many Haitian also arrived to the U.S. shores illegally. These refugees fled to the U.S. who were not considered under the refugee definition which is majorly political refugees, however the Cubans and Haitians are considered as economic refugees. These economic refugees and undocumented aliens during the late 1970s rose to 3 to 6 million (LeMay, 2006, p.165). The Cuban and Haitian refugees were considered separately for legalization in 1984 by the Regan administration through administrative interpretation of a 1966 status (H.R. 4853) (Baker, 1990, p. 51). Between 1975 and 1980, the U.S. government accepted 677,000 refugees which is the highest as compared to any other country during that time (LeMay 2006, p.165-166).
Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy (SCIRP)
Due to increasing debates and concerns of refugees and undocumented immigrants, Congress established 'Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy' (SCIRP) by Public Law 95-412 on October 1978 in order "to study and evaluateâ€¦existing laws, policies, and procedures governing the admission of immigrants and refugees to the United States and to make such administrative and legislative recommendations to the President and to the Congress as are appropriate." (SCIRP, 1981, p. xi)
This commission submitted a final report with their recommendations in 1981. This report contains more than 450 pages covered all issues regarding, according to their abstract, "international issues, undocumented/illegal aliens, the admission of immigrants, phasing in new programs, refugee and mass asylum issues, nonimmigrant aliens, administrative and organizational issues, legal issues, language requirement for naturalization, and treatment of United States territories under U.S. immigration and nationality Laws" (SCIRP, 1981, p. iv).
The detailed information and recommendations formed by this commission was used as the basis for the formation of subsequent legislative and immigration policies by the congress (LeMay, 2006, p. 171).
Some excerpts from the SCIRP report are given below regarding the issues of immigration. The report stated that the U.S. is land of opportunities and caused immigration with pull factors. Their recommendations, in a simple way, were to control illegal immigration and to increase modestly the legal immigration more effectively. They also strongly believed that the immigration as a national interest. Also the report stated on the bases of research findings that the immigrants and refugees are the benefit for the U.S. The commission disagreed to 'open gates' for expanded immigration.
'As a refuge and a land of opportunity, the United States remains the world's number one magnet.'
'The emphasis in the Commission's recommendations, which are themselves complex, can be summed up quite simply: We recommend closing the back door to undocumented/illegal migration, opening the front door a little more to accommodate legal migration in the interests of this country, defining our immigration goals clearly and providing a structure to implement them effectively, and setting forth procedures which will lead to fair and efficient adjudication and administration of U.S. immigration laws.'(SCIRP, 1981, p. 3)
'Is immigration in the U.S. national interest?, the Select Commission gives a strong but qualified yes. A strong yes because we believe there are many benefits which immigrants bring to U.S. society; a qualified res because we believe there are limits on the ability of this country to absorb large numbers of immigrants effectively.' (SCIRP, 1981, p. 5).
'Immigrants, refugees and their children work hard and contribute to the economic well-being of our society; strengthen our social security system and manpower capability; strengthen our ties with other nations; increase our language and cultural resources and powerfully demonstrate to the world that the United States is an open and free society.' (SCIRP, 1981, p. 6).
'But even though immigration is good for this country, the Commission has rejected the arguments of many economists, ethnic groups and religious leaders for a great expansion in the number of immigrants and refugees to be accepted by the United States.' (SCIRP, 1981, p. 7).
Among the recommendation by SCIRP, the most important recommendations concerning the immigration are to increase the border and interior enforcement to control illegal immigration (SCIRP, 1981, p. 302), legalization of illegal/undocumented aliens (SCIRP, 1981, p. 304-305) to increase modestly the numerical limit of legal immigration to 350,000 plus 100,000 per year to clear back log immigrants (SCIRP, 1981, p. 306). SCRIP recommended phasing in of their recommendations initially with adoption of border enforcements, legalization process and then the clearance of backlog immigrant applications (Martin, Susan, 2010, p. 208).
Immigration and Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA)
By the 99th Congress a comprehensive immigration reform bill- the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was passed and enacted as public law 99-603 ((Act of 11/6/86)) in order to control and limit the illegal immigration to the U.S.(Pub.L. 99-603). This act mainly dealt with the controlling of illegal immigration, legalization, reform of legal immigration.
The title I, part A of this act dealt with the controlling of illegal immigration by employment which includes controlling of unlawful employment of aliens, unfair immigration-related employment practices and Fraud and misuse of certain immigration-related documents.
The title I, part B of IRCA act focused on improvement of enforcement and services of the immigration and nationalization Services. This part dealt with the enforcement of immigration laws by increasing the border patrol agents, increasing the funds to execute the enforcement activities and increased penalties for the aliens who tried to enter the U.S. unlawfully.
The title II, states about the legalization of undocumented immigrants. According to IRCA act 1986, two groups of illegal immigrants were eligible to obtain legal permanent residency. The first group who were residing in the U.S. illegally before January 1, 1982 under Section 245A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) were eligible for legalization and the second group who were eligible to obtain legalization were seasonal agricultural workers (SAWs) who served for a minimum of 90 days in the year prior to May, 1986. Also this act gave provisions for the adjustment of Cuban Haitians who arrived in the U.S. before January 1, 1982. The IRCA act increased the employer sanctions, or penalties who knowingly hire the undocumented immigrants.
Various researchers stated that the IRCA policy encouraged the future undocumented immigration (Donato and Massey, 1992, p. 139-157.; Orrenius and Zavodny, (2003), p. 448). After enactment of this act, illegal immigration increased dramatically even after various provisions to control the illegal immigration. Even though, the push and pull factors are always caused the international migration, according to the SCIRP final report, push factors are more dominant to cause mass immigration to the U.S. since 1980 due to growth of worldwide population (SCIRP, 1981, p. 20). According to GAO report, the discrimination was increased after IRCA 1986 (Dodge 1992, p.7). It believed to educate employers and decrease the required documents for the employment.
Overall, the IRCA 1986 gave little impact in controlling the illegal immigration and the employers continued to hire, without fear, the undocumented immigrants due to inefficiency of INS enforcements (LeMay, 2004, p. 17). It became difficult for INS to deal the large number of applicants in legalization program. Under the three legalization programs (Legal Authorization Workers, Seasonal Agricultural Workers and Cuban-Haitian adjustment program), approximately 3 million undocumented immigrants applied for amnesty. About 2.7 million were became legalized under the amnesty program (Martin and Medgley, 2003, p.12; LeMay, 2004, p. 17).
Immigration Act of 1990
After the enactment of IRCA 1986 act, the congress focused on legal immigration process and considered for major changes and passed a bill with the various modifications in the preference system and the numerical limit. This bill was signed by President Bush in 1990 which is known as 'the immigration act of 1990 (IMMACT90) (Pub.L. 101-649). This act focused on increasing the numerical limits of immigrants, introduced diversity program, revised the preference system and gave high priority to employment-based immigration. This law introduced an annual level of at least 675,000 immigrants per year from 1995 fiscal year, 480,000 for family related, 140,000 for employment-based, and 55,000 for diversity immigrants (Ibid, p. 6-8).
The Diversity Visa Lottery program admits 50,000 immigrants from the countries with low admission rates of immigration during past five years. Attorney General decides the number of visas and the countries on the basis of information gathered over recent five years (Ibid, p. 23).
This act gave high priority for employment based immigration and increased from 54,000 visas to 140,000 per year. these 140,000 are divided into three groupings of 40,000 each (priority workers, aliens who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional ability and skilled workers, professionals, and other workers) and two of 10,000 each (certain special immigrants and employment creation).
Another provision by IMMACT 90 was Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) to grant a temporary immigration status to the eligible nationals who are in the U.S. or unable to return their homeland. Under this program, six countries benefited: aliens from El Salvador, Honduras, Liberia, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan and Burundi. Congress responded to brutal El Salvadoran government and provided TPS to 187,000 undocumented Salvadorans by 1993 (Wepman, 2007, p. 315; Kalaitzidis, 2009, p. 123). According to the CRS compilation of USCIS, 229,000 El Salvadorans between 2001 and 2010 and 70,000 aliens from Honduras between 1998 and 2010 benefited from TPS program (Wasem and Ester, 2008, p. 5).
The IMMACT considered other issues which were pending with the Congress at that time. This act also focused on the border enforcement, requirements for naturalization, and also revised categories of exclusion and deportation. Also expanded the anti-discrimination provisions and increased penalties for discrimination, in response to criticism of the employment discrimination of IRCA 1986. Also it revised and expanded the Visa Waiver Pilot Program (Pub.L. 101-649, p. 91-93).
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA 96)
After major changes and efforts in the immigration legislation by IRCA 1986, IMMACT90, the undocumented immigrants continued to enter and the problems with asylum too increased during late 1980s and early 1990s. At the same time several state governments, such as California, Florida and Texas, who are primary receiving of more immigrants, sued the Federal government for estimated fiscal costs related to illegal immigration. For example, California's Proposition 187 was one of the important issues at that time against immigration, especially illegal immigration (LeMay, 2004, p. 23).
Proposition 187 which is also known as Save Our State (SOS) creates a state mandated verifying system whoever seeking tax supported benefits. This proposition bans illegal aliens from public school, educational and health services in California (Martin, Philip, 1995, p. 258-259).
Even though, the federal district court ruled that the Propositions 187 is unconstitutional, Congress received message to work again for the immigration reforms.
At the same time, the immigration process experiences still push side, increasing drug smuggling and human trafficking gave U.S. immigration policy to consider for reforms towards multinational approach. In the same direction, congress passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993 (LeMay, 2004, p. 21-22).
In 1996, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) (Pub. L. 104-208) and President Bill Clinton signed this bill into law. The major provisions of this act are from the Proposition 187 and focused on established measures to control U.S. borders, stronger penalties against unauthorized immigrants, by structural approach towards removing the criminals and other deportable illegal immigrants (LeMay, 2004, p. 24).
The Public Law 104-208, Division C is the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996. This act contains six broad sections dealing with
Title I-improvements to border control, facilitation of legal entry, and interior enforcement (Pub. L. 104-208, p. 554)
Title II-enhanced enforcement and penalties against alien smuggling; document fraud (Pub. L. 104-208, p. 565)
Title III-inspection, apprehension, detention, adjudication, and removal of inadmissible and deportable aliens (Pub. L. 104-208, p. 576)
Title IV-enforcement of restrictions against employment (Pub. L. 104-208, p. 656)
Title V-restrictions on benefits for aliens (Pub. L. 104-208, p. 671)
Title VI-miscellaneous provisions (Pub. L. 104-208, p. 690)
In the above sections, various details are given on controlling illegal immigration by increasing the Border Patrol agents, allocating money for fence along the U.S. border from San Diego eastward, increasing penalties for illegal crossing immigrants into the U.S., controlling entry and exit from the U.S. with "biometric identifiers" and increasing INS internal enforcements towards investigations on visa overstayers. Various provisions were aimed to control alien smuggling and document fraud and increased penalties whoever commits those crimes. Another section classified the "unlawfully present" immigrants according to their time of stay and formed the three-year, ten-year, and permanent bars from being admitted by any legal status and also outlined about deportation of illegal immigrants. New crimes regarding deportation, anti-terrorism, fines and sentences were included in this Act. Also provisions were stated to obtain reimbursement of funds to the states for incarceration of alien criminals.
After 1996, several small immigration legislations were implemented and after 9/11 incident the U.S. government took more measures to tighten the illegal immigration. For example, in 2004, Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act was implemented in order to increase the intelligence-related activities (Pub.L. 108-458).
The compilation and recording of immigration statistics was carried by different authorities and departments in different times. The government began recording the foreign aliens who are entering the U.S. from 1820 with the 1819 Act. From 1820 to 1870 or 1874, department of State series reported annual immigration statistics to the Congress (Hutchinson, 1958, p. 964). Immigration statistics, from 1867 to 1895, Treasury department's bureau of statistics recorded and published as monthly, quarterly and summary statement reports (Ibid., p. 965). Since 1892, Bureau of immigration which was later on known as the Immigration and Naturalization service (INS) was officially compiled the statistics of immigration (Ibid., p. 966; Kurian, 2007, p. 59). After 2003 the duties of INS were taken by United States department of Homelands Security (DHS).
Some data taken from the yearbook of immigration statistics 2009 is presented in order to show the trends of recent immigration since 1965 (Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 2009).