Tag: Changed

How a 1965 immigration law forever changed the makeup of America

The Hart-Celler Immigration Amendments Act of 1965, enacted 55 years ago this week, struck down the race- and nationality-based quota law. When Lyndon B. Johnson signed the law, he modestly stated, “(T)his bill that we will sign today is not a revolutionary bill.” Yet, the nation’s foreign-born population rose from 9.6 million in 1965 to a record 44.8 million in 2018. 

According to the Pew Research Center, new immigrants, their children, and their grandchildren accounted for 55 percent of U.S. population growth from 1965 to 2015. The post-1965 act immigrants were much more diverse racially because immigrants arriving from Africa and Asia increased both in percentages and numbers. Immigrant admissions from the Americas increased in sheer numbers after 1965, particularly the Caribbean and Central America.

In the years that followed, LBJ and the congressional sponsors of the legislation have been roundly criticized for understating how the repeal of the national origin quotas law would alter the racial and ethnic composition of the United States. The bill’s supporters were not unimaginative or misguided. Rather, they minimized the bill because it did not accomplish all that they originally set out to do, particularly in the areas of high-skilled immigration and refugee admissions.

The supporters, of course, knew it would create a more diverse flow of immigrants; ending racial discrimination that favored immigrants from Northern and Western Europe was the objective. When John F. Kennedy served in the Senate, he opined, “(P)erhaps the most blatant piece of discrimination in our nation’s history is the so-called national origins formula,” and he sought its repeal when he became president. In 1964, Sen. Kenneth Keating (R-N.Y.) made clear that immigration reform was not a partisan matter: “There are many men of goodwill on both sides of the aisle who feel that something needs to be done in this area to remove discrimination or injustice from the present immigration laws.” 

The supporters of the legislation also knew it would increase future flows, but they estimated that the increases would be modest — about 60,000 to 65,000 annually. Their calculations were based upon prior levels and existing backlogs. It was a “straight line” view of immigration that did not take into account other factors that might accelerate the flow, or other provisions in the legislation that might potentially alter future flows. This simplistic approach led to projections that overstated flows from some parts of the world and understated flows from other parts of the world.

In 1962, Sen. Philip Hart (D-Mich.) introduced legislation (S. 3043) with bipartisan support that would have abolished the national origins quota system. The bill would have replaced quotas with per-country caps at 15 percent of the total. Up to 50,000 visas would have been set aside for refugees. The Hart bill also would have added an unlimited number of immigrants if deemed to be urgently needed because of high education, specialized experience and technical training. A noteworthy number of Republican senators signed on as original co-sponsors of Hart’s bill: Prescott Bush (Conn.), Clifford

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Forget COVID-19: These Three Pandemics Changed the Course of Society

Before March of this year, few probably thought disease could be a significant driver of human history.

Not so anymore. People are beginning to understand that the little changes COVID-19 has already ushered in or accelerated – telemedicine, remote work, social distancing, the death of the handshake, online shopping, the virtual disappearance of cash and so on – have begun to change their way of life. They may not be sure whether these changes will outlive the pandemic. And they may be uncertain whether these changes are for good or ill.

Three previous plagues could yield some clues about the way COVID-19 might bend the arc of history. As I teach in my course “Plagues, Pandemics and Politics,” pandemics tend to shape human affairs in three ways.

First, they can profoundly alter a society’s fundamental worldview. Second, they can upend core economic structures. And, finally, they can sway power struggles among nations.

Sickness spurs the rise of the Christian West

The Antonine plague, and its twin, the Cyprian plague – both now widely thought to have been caused by a smallpox strain – ravaged the Roman Empire from A.D. 165 to 262. It’s been estimated that the combined pandemics’ mortality rate was anywhere from one-quarter to one-third of the empire’s population.

While staggering, the number of deaths tells only part of the story. This also triggered a profound transformation in the religious culture of the Roman Empire.

On the eve of the Antonine plague, the empire was pagan. The vast majority of the population worshipped multiple gods and spirits and believed that rivers, trees, fields and buildings each had their own spirit.

Christianity, a monotheistic religion that had little in common with paganism, had only 40,000 adherents, no more than 0.07% of the empire’s population.

Yet within a generation of the end of the Cyprian plague, Christianity had become the dominant religion in the empire.

How did these twin pandemics effect this profound religious transformation?

Rodney Stark, in his seminal work “The Rise of Christianity,” argues that these two pandemics made Christianity a much more attractive belief system.

While the disease was effectively incurable, rudimentary palliative care – the provision of food and water, for example – could spur recovery of those too weak to care for themselves. Motivated by Christian charity and an ethic of care for the sick – and enabled by the thick social and charitable networks around which the early church was organized – the empire’s Christian communities were willing and able to provide this sort of care.

Pagan Romans, on the other hand, opted instead either to flee outbreaks of the plague or to self-isolate in the hope of being spared infection.

This had two effects.

First, Christians survived the ravages of these plagues at higher rates than their pagan neighbors and developed higher levels of immunity more quickly. Seeing that many more of their Christian compatriots were surviving the plague – and attributing this either to divine favor or the benefits of the care

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