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.