For a large part of U.S. history, immigration policies were largely based on a preferential system focusing on race and national origin. Visa quotas excluded individuals from African or Asian countries, as well as from many places of origin in eastern Europe. Lawful entry and presence was instead regularly granted to white individuals and families from Northwestern European countries, which kept the demographics of America fairly steady. However, with the civil rights movement in the 1960s, many people advocated for an overall end to widespread discrimination and racism–and that included immigration policies.
In 1965, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act, Congress voted the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) into law. This law significantly changed the immigration policies of the United States and aimed to open the doors for immigrants not based on race or country of origin, but instead on other important factors. Some of these factors included family ties to the U.S. and professional or educational aspirations. The Act also permitted U.S. businesses to employ foreign workers if needed to fill certain jobs for which suitable applicants were not available in the United States, so long as the Department of Labor certifies that the labor is necessary. Such labor certification is still one of the most common ways of obtaining a visa to come and work in the U.S.
In 1965 when the INA was enacted, about 87 percent of individuals coming into the United States were white Europeans. In 2010, an estimated 90 percent of immigrants originated from countries outside of Europe. In addition, 85 percent of the American population in 1965 was white and, now, estimates indicate that white non-Hispanic individuals will no longer be the majority in the United States by the 2040s.
While the INA did much to diversify the population of the United States, the Act is not perfect. There were and remain flaws regarding the treatment of immigrants from neighboring countries versus the treatment of immigrants from far removed countries. As many of these flaws still exist, many people believe we may be on the brink of the next great immigration reform that will hopefully further improve immigration policies and focus on a path to lawful residency and citizenship.
In recent times, there are many different ways for individuals to come into the U.S. to live, work, and be with their families. The laws provide immigrants with many rights and provide opportunities for children of immigrant families to receive the same education and training as children born in the U.S. If you are thinking about coming to live in the United States, if you would like to discuss your current immigration status options, if you would like to sponsor a family member, or if you have any other type of immigration matter please call the experienced Chicago immigration lawyers at Kriezelman, Burton & Associates, LLC at 312-332-2550 today.
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The KB&A Team