Immigration

Jia Lynn Yang on the Immigration Law that Changed America

The author of a new history of immigration worries that the coronavirus is bringing the mythology of America as a nation of immigrants to an end.

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What will the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown of our society mean for the hundreds of thousands of foreign workers, refugees, and asylum seekers who apply annually to become Americans? Donald Trump won the presidential election in 2016 in part by vowing to "build a wall," deport all unauthorized residents, and greatly reduce the number of people welcomed here legally.

COVID-19, which has its origins in China, may help the president to deliver on his campaign promises. Is the mythology of America as a nation of immigrants coming to an end?

A deputy national editor at The New York Times, Jia Lynn Yang is the author of the timely new book, One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924–1965. The book begins at another dark moment in American immigration policy, when a restrictive law ended a long period of relatively open borders and effectively stopped mass movement to the United States for the next 40 years. It tells the story of the decades-long battle that led the U.S. to begin accepting foreigners once again. And yet almost nobody involved in that fight foresaw the extent to which the 1965 law signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson would open the door once again to large numbers of new immigrants—including Yang's family, who came here from Taiwan in the 1970s.

Nick Gillespie sat down with Yang first in March and then again in May, after signs that COVID-19 pandemic could have a major effect on U.S. immigration policy, including Trump's executive order temporarily halting legal migration, a delay in asylum hearings on the Mexican border, and a federal order blocking entry of migrant children that invokes a 1940s-era law.

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  1. Why does Reason favor the wholesale invasion of US by the world’s poor?
    Collective IQ plummets, crime rises, and it causes government to get larger and more expensive. More social programs, more ESL teachers, more police, more prisons, more prison guards, more welfare, more socialized medicine, more rent control, etc.
    How is growing government libertarian?

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    2. You’re right! Its about time we got rid of those damn Irish, Italian, German, and Scandinavian immigrants that pollute our shores!

      1. I would say anyone who can’t put old world grudges behind them and drag America into wars to settle old scores..doesn’t sound like Italian, German, or Frenchman to me…

      2. You forgot the Sicilians. Keep them out.

    3. Also:
      More economic activity, more scientific discoveries, more literature written, more symphonies performed, more engineers building bridges, more software developers writing code, more inventors inventing, more people free(r) of oppression and raising happy families.

      Funny how you only look at one side of the immigration equation. What about the other one?

      No one honestly claims that all immigrants are saints. But they aren’t all devils either.

      Just let people be free. That should be the bottom line here.

      1. Sure, except that once the entire Third World realized in the mid-60s that they could get welfare, Medicaid, food stamps, and subsidized housing by demanding asylum or just coming here illegally and having a baby, that opened the door to many immigrants scamming the system.

        While America needs hardworking law-abiding immigrants to thrive, we do not need +1 million more a year and we definitely do not need more poor people and/or religious nuts.

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    5. Don’t talk to deontologists about *consequences*.

      Borders are bad, m’kay?

  2. The book begins at another dark moment in American immigration policy, when a restrictive law ended a long period of relatively open borders and effectively stopped mass movement to the United States

    Totally neutral viewpoint! /sarcasm

  3. For a period of time when immigration was nearly stopped we sure had a lot of immigration coming to this country. How many hundreds of thousands of war refuge came here after WWII? In fact some if them even turned out to be former Nazis and War Criminals, so I guess our restrictive laws weren’t very good at being restrictive.

  4. United States has highest numbers of foreign born residents of any country in the world, at 50,000,000. So don’t see that ‘nation of immigrants’ thing ending any time soon. Turn off all immigration today, and in a decade it will still be 45,000,000.

    1. Worst. White Supremacists. Ever.

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  7. There sure seem to be a lot of “dark moment(s) in American immigration policy.” These moments were so dark that millions of foreigners still wanted to become naturalized Americans. They wanted to be part of the nation with a culture that creates dark moments after dark moments in immigration policy.

    Who created, and who supported those who created, those dark moments?
    It wasn’t previous immigrants, was it? Could it have been those who entered the US during the “long period of relatively open borders” or perhaps their children? Well, was America a nation of immigrants back then or wasn’t it?

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