Fifty-four years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a new immigration law that would change the face of the nation. Ironically, the passage resulted in a major miscalculation by Republicans who actually wanted to limit the bill’s effect.

Signed at the foot of the Statue of Liberty on Oct. 3, 1965, The Immigration and Nationality Act abolished the quota system, under which immigrants were chosen on the basis of their race and ancestry. The quota system had kept the U.S. population by race and country the same.

Countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East were allocated barely 100 slots each. It was obviously a discriminatory system.

Under the new law, immigrants were to be selected on the basis of their family connections in the United States, with all nationalities treated more or less equally.

“The bill that we sign today is not a revolutionary bill,” Johnson said. “It does not affect the lives of millions and it will not change the face of the United States.”

In his 1964 State of the Union address, Johnson said: “A nation that was built by immigrants should not be asking, ‘In what country were you born?’”

Michael Feighan (D-Ohio), the chairman of the House Immigration subcommittee refused to hold hearings on the immigration reform bill, but after he got the Johnson treatment during a ride on Air Force One, Feighan agreed to support the proposal only if those immigrants who already had relatives in the United States could sponsor their immediate family members.

But Johnson had tricked the conservatives and the scheme backfired. What Feighan and his allies didn’t recognize was that the motivation of Europeans to move to the United States was diminishing, while the urge to migrate was growing in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and other non-European countries.

The 1965 Immigration Act sent a message to the world “that America is not just a place for certain privileged nationalities to come.”

By 2010, 9 out of 10 immigrants were coming from parts of the world that Feighan and his allies considered less desirable.

In 1997, 63 percent of the students in Texas public schools were white, in 2018 that number is down to 27 percent and declining. Hispanics are now the majority at 52 percent. Almost 60 percent of all Texas public school students are identified as economically poor.

Increasing birth rates among immigrant families from Muslim countries, Asia, Central, and South America, combined with lower birth rates among white families, means that this demographics shift will continue and poses difficulties for schools as they work to accommodate children of varying language abilities and socio-economic backgrounds.

The 1965 immigration law had unintended consequences and has done just the opposite what President Johnson and the promoters said it would do.

It has divided American citizens along party lines, it’s the reason behind Robin Hood, the driving cause of the continuing school funding crisis and a major contributor to rising property taxes.

Jack Cross lives in Texas City.


(19) comments

Steve Fouga

It's clear to me that immigration is the number-one issue among conservatives in this county, judging by letters to the editor and forum discussions. Anyone care to dispute that?

Carlos Ponce

Asking Conservatives what is their "number-one issue" is like asking a parent of more than one child who is their favorite. Immigration is important but so is protection of the innocents, i.e. being Pro-Life. Add to the list obeying the Rule of Law.

Diane Turski

Carlos, do you mean that you support "obeying the Rule of Law"? Or do you mean that you support selectively "obeying the Rule of Law", which would track with your support of Trump?

Carlos Ponce

Diane, Trump obeys the Rule of Law.

Bailey Jones

Johnson was a scoundrel and a character, but he passed some first class legislation. I don't believe I even met a "foreigner" until I was in college in the 1970s, where I got to know Asian (both east and west), African and Eastern European students and faculty. And their cultures, customs, religions, and most of all, their food. I'll forever be indebted to LBJ for introducing me to Indian, African and Middle eastern cuisine, and the wonderful people who know how to cook it.

Jack Cross

Word count prevented me from adding that times have changed and I think people from the countries that were originally banned could be assimilated and become good citizens, but what we have is open borders with poor people coming in from all over the world, wrecking our schools, eating up welfare ect. Schools must enroll everyone, so that's incentive #1 and mothers of foreign babies who have no insurance must be enrolled and paid out of Medicaid that is another incentive that is out of control.

Bailey Jones

I love the fact that we have immigrants coming from all over the world. It's only proper that the US, as the leader of the world, represents the world demographically. I enjoy living in the most diverse metropolitan area in the country. Our diversity is a national treasure. And as my ancestors came here in the era of true open borders, poor and poorly educated, intent on leaving behind failed societies and economies in hopes of finding something better, I'd consider myself to be a hypocrite if I felt otherwise.

Bailey Jones

"What means the paying of the passage and emptying out upon our shores such floods of pauper emigrants — the contents of the poor house and the sweepings of the streets? — multiplying tumults and violence, filling our prisons, and crowding our poor-houses, and quadrupling our taxation, and sending annually accumulating thousands to the poll to lay their inexperienced hand upon the helm of our power?" - Lyman Beecher, Leader of the Second Great Awakening, on English immigrants, 1834

Carlos Ponce

There was "Indian, African and Middle eastern cuisine" in the United States prior to President LBJ.

Charles Douglas

I think Mr. CROSS said something about schools. I know about bad schools since I attended a bushel full of them, but I worked and overcame that later. What I want somebody to explain is how can a kid who speaks no English learn a #$& thing in a classroom where the teacher speaks ONLY English? ( Ohhhh I'm going to love these answers. ) lol.

Jim Forsythe

My new cell phone translates many languages, as do other machines .With many aids, communicating with others is easer than in the past. Even with these aids it is estimated to take 6 to 8 years for a student that's does not speak English, to be at grade level.--------------- -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Lau v. Nichols case in 1974, the U.S. Office of Civil Rights created a series of guidelines for schools to follow with respect to linguistic diversity. The “Lau Remedies,” as they were called, required that all ELL students should be taught core academic subjects in their home language until their proficiency in English allowed them to fully benefit from instruction in English"

Bailey Jones

They'll learn the same way your ancestors learned, Charles - by necessity.

Charles Douglas

I like Jim's answer, because to a certain degree I think that is how a lot of students are trucking along. Don't forget, with an open border we are not just talking about Hispanic kids. See I use to work in a few schools out of this county. Now, Bailey.... I think many of my ancestor never learned English, and they never went to school. It haven't been that long ago, it was against the law for SOME of my ancestors to learn to read and write anyway, of have you forgotten? Then just for info, some of my ancestors might have come here from the same place yours did. Maybe you were focusing on those.

Charles Douglas

Jim, another thing of interest I learned when I asked an Assistant Principal with a PHD by his name, the question I asked here, he said that other bilingual students helped those students. He said they acted as translators on the cool. LOL. Good feedback you provided, but it will get even more difficult when all the Asians and African countries' young start pouring across that open border as they are starting to do. Good feedback!

Emile Pope

The author implies that people coming here from Europe were higher up on the socioeconomic scale than people coming in from other continents. Does he have any evidence to support that claim?

Jack Cross

Yes, schools and welfare Families are leaving these schools in droves, 1.8 percent white in San Antonio, 8 percent White in Houston and 5.5 percent white in Dallas. proverty level 75 to 96 percent. it is not the race of the people is both poor, less educated and kids with not a father in the home. The data is undisputed. Medicaid for the poor at 66.6 billion Percent this next budget, still not enough and both the state and the federal government cutting their funding. This is a disaster for poor American citizens in nursing homes as an example that already has problems. 60 percent of all babies in the united States is paid out of Medicaid. Why do you think we have Robin Hood? poor immigrants. Schools must enroll students of foreigners, not permitted to ask questions or documents. Any foreign mother who doesn't have insurance, the baby is paid for by American taxpayers out of a strained Medicaid and the baby and the family stays on welfare. There is more but these are all facts. The most hurt by this is African Americans. It is a disaster and it is only going to get worse. My column is not against any race or foreigner, it is for American Taxpayers who are taking a beating and American poor. We can't have anyone who wants to come here on a free ride and put it on a credit card.

Emile Pope

I repeat, what evidence do you have that immigrants to this country from Europe were higher up on the socioeconomic scale than those coming from continents? Many immigrants from Europe were on the same scale as those coming from other countries. Many were poor, had no formal education, and spoke little or no English. To imply that people not from Europe were inferior stock and that is the cause of problems in this country is not only wrong but insulting. Proof please. And please tell me who wants to come here on a free ride...

Emile Pope

And oh by the way, the diminishing number of Europeans coming to this country had more to do with conditions in their own country improving into a growing economy, higher wages, increased opportunities, and increases in social services. They no longer had to flee poverty in their own country to come here and try to prosper. Which is why when trump said that he wanted more people from Norway to come here the Norwegians wanted to know why should they, what with that free healthcare and all...

Carlos Ponce

Norway was not the only location President Trump mentioned. He also mentioned immigrants from Asia. The only reason he mentioned Norway was because of his meeting with the Norwegian Prime Minister.

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