Overview of Migration
By Tim Blair and Wallace Brumfield

In 1965, one of the most important immigration bills in U.S. History was signed, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. The bill effectively eliminated the exclusion policies that had restricted the number of immigrants from many Asian nations. This change was a result of the Civil Rights Movement and a cumbersome, ineffective immigration policy. The new system emphasized reuniting families, and admittance of immigrants with specific skills deemed necessary or in short supply. Nearly fifteen years later 70,000 immigrants with M.D.’s had been granted visas. The bill was also laid the foundation for creating new communities of immigrants, and strengthened communities that already existed. While immigrants had previously settled in areas with other immigrants from the same country or region because the felt more comfortable, these communities sprung up and grew in most major cities as a result family prioritization. For example, one person with a professional degree immigrates to the U.S. Several years later, they bring their spouse and children over. Siblings and then granted priority, allowing growing chains of people immigrant legally. (Immigration Act of 1965),
(Peopling of America), (Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965).

Causes of Migration – post 1965
by Tim Blair

Millions of Immigrants from across the world immigrated to the U.S. for various reasons. Nearly all groups had factors which pushed from their homes. The United States beckoned to these immigrants for various reasons. For some the U.S. was the most geographically practical developed nation. Others saw the United States as the strongest nation on earth: hence they could get the best education, the highest paying jobs, and build a brighter future for themselves and their children. Many people had been trying to get visas for years and only as a result of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. As a result of these factors, untold millions of people have immigrated to the U.S. since 1965.

Post-1965 Immigration from China was almost non-existent under Mao Zedong’s regime until 1978. In 1978 China, under Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, opened its economy and people to the outside world. This lead to a massive wave of immigration, largely to the United States because that was the most geographically practical of the first world nations. There were two groups of immigrants. Those who were well off and sought an education outside of China, and those fleeing harsh economic and social conditions. The latter group was far more common mostly as a result of two of Mao’s policies: the Great Leap Forward, which left an estimated 20-30 million people dead and millions more malnourished, and the Cultural Revolution which sometimes classified as war on literature, intellectualism, and anything else that could be classified as “reactionary” or foreign influences corrupting Chinese minds. Both of these policies were devastating to China, both socially and economically; so terrible that many immigrated simply because they sought a new beginning elsewhere. (A Framework for Immigration)

The state of South Korea was abysmal when Immigration and National Act of 1965 was passed. After the Korean War (1950-1953), the infrastructure was destroyed; the economy in tatters; and the military dictatorship was making matters progressively worse. The government had laid out an ambitious plan, a variety of “planned capitalism,” which was so flawed, one can see in retrospect it was doomed from the start. The goal of the plan was to industrialize South Korea as quickly as possible, and develop an export based economy. The plan involved forced relocation of civilians to develop a workforce, initial dependency on foreign capital, and what effectively became an alliance between large businesses and the military. The effect was uprooting thousands of people from their homes, a huge dependency on Japan and the U.S. to keep the economy stable, and businesses who supported the military dictatorship financially in return for favors: they were effectively able to buy the government, leading to situation rife with corruption. Given the state of Korea, many people who had the means immigrate did so. Tens of thousands of students and professionals immigrated to the U.S., and several years later brought their spouses and children, who were in turn able to bring over siblings. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which emphasized preference to family members and skilled professionals, set the stage for what become a “chain immigration” situation resulting in a very unexpected influx of Korean immigration. (The Korean Americans)

After the British officially granted India its independence as a result of international pressure and pressing domestic issues in 1947, a government was installed in India shortly thereafter which was woefully unprepared the challenges they would soon face. While a constitution was drafted and the first general elections were held 1952, other problems would soon face the fledgling nation: decaying infrastructure, corruption, a weak economy, and the absence of many civil institutions seen as essential in developed nations such as public education, and stable legal and judicial system. In addition, constant uprisings and often gridlocked politics as a result of a politically and religiously polarized public made progress extremely difficult. The main reason immigrants from India left was an unstable country and a lack of opportunity. In addition, students from higher castes in India often come to the U.S. as part of their education. Once the Immigration Act of 1965 passed, the United States joined an already growing list of developed countries with Indian immigrants coming by the tens of thousands. (Indian Independence Movement)
Vietnamese Refugees entering the U.S.

Refugees from Vietnam fled by the millions immediately after the Vietnam War. The poorly constructed boats, hardly fit for drifting on a lake, captured so much media attention that speaking out against accepting those refugees would have been political suicide. As a result, the United States officially accepted over half a million Vietnamese refugees, and many more remain undocumented. (Vietnamese American)

Mexico & Central America
An estimated 4.3 million Mexican immigrants came to the United States between 1965 and 2000. This figure may not be entirely accurate because immigrants from Central America are often classified as “Mexican.” Regardless, they cross the same border, and from any region that is a staggering number. U.S. policy in regard to border control affects each group equally, and since the vast majority of Mexican and Central American immigrants settle in the South-Western United States, policy changes on the local and state level affect immigrants from both regions very similarly. (The Peopling of America)

The most common reason people immigrate from Mexico and Central America is for jobs. While they typically end up with minimum or below minimum wage jobs they often leave much harsher economic conditions. To quote Adam Smith, “Better to be a poor man in a rich country, than a rich man in a poor country.” This is largely the case for many Mexican and Central American immigrants, and this quote is often used to describe why people leave their homes, family, friends, and life as they know it to do some the hardest jobs in the nation for minimum wage.

Economic Conditions are not the thing that pushes this demographic. Wars in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador have resulted in surges of undocumented refugees in the South-West. Others seek to escape government corruption. Mexico’s police force is infamous for its corruption and has been a factor in the decision of many immigrants to cross the border.

Immigrant Experiences and Effects

by Stephanie Mar and Joyce Joves

The migration from 1965 to the present consisted mainly of Asians and Latin American ethnicities (Migration and Immigration: A Global View). But whether they came from China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia or Cuba, they all immigrated to the U.S. to make better lives for themselves and their families. Their new lives began by boarding a boat or entering an airplane leaving from their home and alighting in the U.S (Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans).


With the agreement of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, many Chinese citizens were able to immigrate into the U.S. by overturning the restrictions that were put on Asian immigrants before. By passing the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, it meant Asian immigrants were finally able to apply for one of the annual 20,000 visas given to each country in the Eastern Hemisphere, or receive one of the unlimited family ratification visas and rejoin their family (Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965). Although the law was originally passed to encourage Europeans who had family that previously migrated to the U.S., because of the Gold Rush in the early 1900s, many women and family had been separated from their husbands, who were trying to prosper from mining for gold. This act pushed them to come to the United States and be reunited with their families.

The first wave of Chinese immigrants had already set up a support system for the Chinese community. Many Chinese immigrants in the past had settled in California, along the coast, like San Francisco and Monterey Park in Los Angeles, and in Flushing, New York establishing "Chinatowns" which helped preserve the Chinese culture they had left behind. In Chinatown, grandparents and parents were able to set up Chinese schools to teach the youth how to read and write in Chinese and to appreciate their heritage. Unfortunately, these schools encountered discrimination. English schools discouraged the teachings of the Chinese culture and thought the Chinese traditions should be subordinate to the American teachings. Discrimination was also found among adults. Chinese men were often stereotyped as gold miners, farmers and factory workers, Chinese women were seen as launderers or seamstresses, and they were paid nearly half of the wage given to white men (Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans). But with perseverance, the Chinese culture has shaped America's history and society. According to a year 2000 census, they make up nearly 3 million of the U.S.’ population and have contributed to American agriculture and industry (Migration and Immigration: A Global View).

Along with the Chinese immigration, the second wave were Filipinos that came to the U.S. when the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was passed. Like the Chinese, the early Filipino immigrants believed that living in the U.S. would only be temporary, so mostly men
Filipinos getting off a boat
immigrated to find work and then send the profits back to their families back at home. When the Act of 1965 was established wives and other families immigrated to the U.S. to rejoin their husbands and make the U.S. their new home.

Most previous Filipino immigrants settled in Hawaii and other parts of the main land, but once the second wave of immigrants migrated, Filipino immigrants settled through out the nation, including California, New York, Pennsylvania, Arizona and other mid-U.S. territories. Because the Filipino population was dispersed throughout the country, the amount of Filipino immigrants looked small, but from 1965 to 1984 over 665,000 Filipino immigrants moved to the U.S. Before the second wave of immigrants, Filipinos were often employees of low wage jobs, such as kitchen help, farmers, porters, etc., because of these types of jobs many Filipinos were categorized as "jungle folk" or troublemakers. With these names, they were also segregated with signs hanging outside store forbidding Filipinos to enter. But with the second wave of Filipino immigrants, Filipinos were able to gain more respect and live a successful life throughout the U.S. Because many of the second wave immigrants were fleeing from the new, corrupted government, to more educated immigrants that came to the U.S. They came with nursery degrees, doctorate degrees and pharmaceutical degrees, and soon the medical field was heavily populated with Filipino men and women (Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans).

Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian:
In 1980, the 1980 Refugee Act was passed allowing 125,000 refugees a year to immigrate into the U.S. Thousands of Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodians benefited from this act, due to the brutal Vietnam War. With the help of the U.S. military, over 130,000 Vietnamese and 140,000 Laotians were transported by helicopter, airplanes, and U.S. Navy ships to U.S. soil where they were able to apply for citizenship and have a better life. The experience for the Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian people will forever be remembered. Some said that their last memories of their beloved country was flying over the land and seeing the hundreds of people lying dead on the floor. Others remember reluctantly defying their strong family bond and leaving their grandma to live through the rest of war because she refused to leave her husband's grave. The Southeast immigration was under one of the worst circumstances and experiences (Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans).

Finding homes for the Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodians were more difficult because most of them did not have family members living in the U.S., many of them lived with church sponsors who were willing to take in a refugee family around the country. Adjusting to American life was also incredibly difficult for the Southeast immigrants. America was much more urban than Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Along with the culture shock, many felt out of place because of their fashion, but worst of all was coping with why they had to come to the U.S. Many immigrants were still paranoid about being bombed or killed. It has been said that the emotional and physical stress was so exhausting that many became blind to escape the horrid pictures of war. Unfortunately, supplemental to the anxiety of the past, the Vietnamese also became victims of prejudice, who were often derided for their accents and Vietnamese language (Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans).

Fortunately, these Southeastern immigrants were able to break though their traumas and start a new life for themselves. To preserve tradition, Vietnamese established "Little Saigon" where restaurants and stores opened that represented the positive memories of their country. These immigrants also became doctors, lawyers, teachers and managers (Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans).

Latin Americans:

Before the major Cuban immigration in 1980, Cuba actually traded with the U.S. Between Florida and the islands, Cuban merchants would bring materials such as sugar, coffee, cigars and tobacco. But once the communist government overtook Cuba, Fidel Castro suspended all flights to and from the U.S. except in Varaderos, Cuba. From Varaderos, there were wealthier Cubans that were able to flee to the U.S. and away from the new government. Once the Cuban Communist Government finally opened their ports again in 1980, many Cubans were able to flee from Cuba by boats, rafts, etc. and make the 90-mile trip to Florida, where they could escape Castro's rule. Like the Chinese and Filipino immigrants, the Cuban immigrants only expected to stay a couple years, or until the end of communist rule and, also like the Chinese and Filipino, because Castro is still in rule, most Cubans have not been able to return to their homes. Instead of staying in Florida, many Cubans migrated to Chicago, New Jersey and Los Angeles. Making lives for themselves, the Cubans have also been victims of stereotyping, but they have been able to ignore the discrimination and establish several Cuban American institutions, become bank owners, hotel managers and business owners (Immigration…Puerto Rican/ Cuban).

Mexicans have inhabited the U.S. for several years and are currently still immigrating into the country to develop better lives for themselves. Unfortunately, because Mexico shares the border of the U.S. they are discriminated against to have "hopped the border" or be illegal immigrants. Many laws have been written to prohibit Mexican immigrants to coming into the country without visas, but some laws have also passed to help those illegal aliens who need help. These laws include the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which gives amnesty, or human rights, to nearly 3 million illegal immigrants and raises the penalties for knowingly employing an illegal immigrant, the 1996 Immigration Reform Law, increased border control, and the revision of the Immigration Reform Law in 2000 enlarged border control again from 5,157 patrols to 10,000 patrols (Timeline of Selected U.S. Immigration Legislation, and Landmarks in Immigration History).

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