American Immigration Essay - Critical Essays

American Immigration

A list of the most underreported news stories of the 1980’s would have to feature immigration somewhere very near the top. A major shift in U.S. immigration policy (passed by Congress in 1965 and becoming effective in 1968) had led to sharp increases in immigration in the late 1960’s and the 1970’s. In the 1980’s, immigration skyrocketed, reaching totals unapproached since the first decade of the twentieth century. That trend is continuing in the 1990’s. Slowly—with considerable nudging from the 1990 census—the media is beginning to acknowledge this phenomenon, but it remains a significantly underreported story, one of enormous complexity and far-reaching implications.

Scholars have been more than a step ahead of the media on this issue. In the last ten or fifteen years, there has been an explosion of scholarship on immigration. While many studies have focused on the so-called New Immigration initiated in the 1960’s, others have reassessed the entire history of immigration to the United States.

In response both to this new scholarship and to the events that triggered it, Maldwyn Allen Jones has prepared a new edition of his highly regarded survey AMERICAN IMMIGRATION. When the first edition of Jones’s study was published, in 1960, mass immigration appeared to be a closed chapter in American history. The immigration act of 1924 had restricted new immigration, particularly from Asia (for decades, Asian immigrants were virtually excluded from entry) but also from Southern Europe and other regions deemed “undesirable” in contrast to the Northern European ideal. The Depression and World War II also contributed to the decline in immigration. While the immediate postwar years brought a large number of refugees, there was no dramatic increase in immigration until the policy shift of the 1960’s.

For this second edition, Jones has added a new chapter on post-1960 immigration, updated the bibliography, and revised lightly. Anyone who is interested in this vital subject will want to read Jones’s account.