America’s Immigration Policy in the Sixties

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August 3, 2012 by dontbringlulubook

In 1965, a new Immigration and Nationality Act was introduced to the USA, abolishing the National Origins Formula that had been in place since 1924 which consisted of a quota system under which each nationality was assigned a quota based upon its representation in past US figures.

The new Act, also known as the Hart-Celler Act due to the individuals – US Representative Emanuel Celler of New York and the US Senator Philip Hart of Michigan -that proposed it, established a new immunisation policy based on a preference system that focused on the skills of each immigrant and their family relationships with citizens or US residents.  One of its aims was to reunite immigrant families and attract skilled labour to the US.  AS a result of such a policy, many more immigrants began to come from countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America as opposed to Europe. The previous quota system had excluded Asians and Africans, preferring instead Northern and Western Europeans over Southern & Eastern ones.

At the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the old law was seen as an embarrassment by people as high profile as the then President John F Kennedy who called the quota system “intolerable”.   It was the civil rights movement’s focus on equal treatment regardless of nationality or race that led many to view such an antiquated system as both discriminatory and backward.

Ron Onions, his wife Doris and daughters Sarah and Lulu experienced America’s Immigration policies first hand in November 1967 when Ron was posted to the US in the newly created position of News Organiser, New York.  In their book “Don’t Bring Lulu”, Ron talks of how although all four had passports stamped with the letter I for Information, authorising foreign journalists and their families to live and work in the USA for up to four years, Lulu was viewed as special needs, which in those days was referred to as mentally handicapped.

The new Immigration laws consisted of a document that listed reasons for barring entry into the US, these being people with a history of active support for Communism, those with a criminal record and those likely to be a charge on federal funds.  It was this last point that the immigration officials felt Lulu fell under.  Despite Ron confirming that any charges would be covered by the BBC under the terms of his contract, it still took the British Consulate to get involved before they were admitted into the country – the new immigration act meant that entire families could uproot themselves from other countries and re-establish their lives in the US.

America's immigration policy during the 60's

America’s immigration policy during the 60’s

In the three decades following the passing of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, more than 18 million legal immigrants entered the US, more than three times the number that had been admitted over the preceding three years.


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