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Immigration Policy and the Shaping of U.S. Culture

Becoming America

Roger White

The author examines the relationships between immigration policy, observed immigration patterns, and cultural differences between the United States and immigrants’ source countries. The entirety of U.S. immigration history (1607-present) is reviewed through a recounting of related legislative acts and by examining data on immigrant inflows and cross-societal cultural distances.
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Chapter 5: A pivot in U.S. immigration policy, 1968–present

Becoming America

Roger White

Extract

We review U.S. immigration history during the period from 1968 through 2015. The Hart-Celler Act (1968) abolished the National Origins Quota System and changed the bases for immigrant entry to promote family reunification, fill labor market vacancies, and accommodate refugees and asylum-seekers. This led to a pronounced increase in the number of arrivals, to 765,258 immigrants in a typical year during the period. It also resulted in a shift in the primary source countries/regions of immigrant arrivals. Asia’s share of the immigrant inflow increased from 4.9 percent during the 1921–1967 period to 31.2 percent. The share of the total inflow that arrived from Latin America and the Caribbean more than doubled, from 21.9 percent to 44.4 percent. Immigrants from Africa have accounted for 5 percent of the total inflow since 1968. We have witnessed a corresponding decrease in the immigrant share value for Europe, from 53.8 percent to 11.9 percent.

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