Bush isn't LBJ either

I attended an interesting panel last night at the New School on immigration issues, with Cyrus Mehta, from the American Immigration Law Foundation, and Dan Tichenor, a visiting scholar at the Wilson school.

Tichenor gave some very good background on the history of immigration policy in the U.S., context which ought to be far more present in today's debates than it is.

After World War I, the U.S. imposed draconian country-of-origin quotas for immigration, quotas which suppressed net immigration levels to nearly zero during the 30s and early 40s. Following World War II, Congress codified these laws and imposed new Cold War-minded restrictions on immigrants' political persuasions (no anarchists, communists, etc) but also introduced new preference categories for immigrants with special skills/relatives already in the U.S. In 1965, Congress finally abolished the quota system, replacing it with a qualitative preference system and country specific ceilings.

Tichenor noted that one of the most powerful arguments persuading President Johnson to support and sign the bill was made by his national security staff. They warned that a restrictive immigration policy would make the U.S. appear hypocritical in the eyes of the world; we couldn't make honest overtures to the citizens of communist countries to reject tyranny and insularity if we remained a stubbornly closed society ourselves.

Hmmm, that sounds reasonable now doesn't it.

Read the speech LBJ gave at the signing ceremony for the bill to get an idea of just how antithetical to our national values the current crackdown on immigrants is, here.


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