What Is the Immigration Act of 1965?


Quick Answer

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 created new standards for immigration based on work skills and ties to family members already in the United States. Previously, immigration rules were based on national origin and titled in favor of Northern European countries, which critics felt was unfair and racist, according to a report by Jennifer Ludden of National Public Radio.

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Full Answer

Previously, immigration quotas were calculated based on the national origin of people already in the United States. As a result, countries such as the United Kingdom and Ireland were heavily favored under the quota system, while Southern and Eastern European countries were given disproportionately low quotas, according to Wikipedia. Supporters of the new standards, including President John F. Kennedy, felt that people from Asia and Africa were similarly discriminated against under the quota system, NPR states.

Before the act was passed, immigration accounted for just 10 percent of U.S. population growth, states Wikipedia, citing U.S. Census Bureau figures. Immigration increased significantly after the act's passage.

The law's requirements made it easier for immigrants with family members already in the United States to become citizens. This increased so-called "chain migration," in which family members sponsor new immigrants to whom they are related, reports NPR.

President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill into law at Liberty Island in New York. In his speech marking the event, Johnson credited John F. Kennedy for supporting the new reforms.

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