Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Land Still Flourishes on Immigration

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Land Still Flourishes on Immigration

Article excerpt

Thanks to the presidential candidates, immigration is once again at the forefront of the national agenda. Unfortunately, the focus on unauthorized immigrants threatens to cast a pall over the whole issue. As we continue the debate, we would do well to remember that a willingness to welcome people from all over the world is one of our nation's greatest strengths. Fifty years ago, America set in motion the "fourth wave of immigration." The 1965 passage of the Hart-Cellar Act ended the national origin quotas that had favored the Northern European countries since 1924 and opened the doors to the Hispanic and Asian immigrants who would reshape America.

Passed as an extension of the civil rights movement, few expected the bill to result in major changes. President Lyndon B. Johnson said, "This bill we sign today is not a revolutionary bill. It does not affect the lives of millions. It will not restructure the shape of our daily lives."

He, and the others who predicted a similar outcome, were wrong.

* Since 1965, 59 million immigrants have arrived. Approximately 25 percent of our current population is first or second generation Americans.

* The percent of foreign-born Americans has risen steadily. In 1965 it was 5 percent; today it is 14 percent; by 2065 it will be 18 percent. (The historic peak was 14.8 percent in 1890.)

* Hispanics and Asians account for most of the increase. In 1965, they were 5 percent of the total population; today they are 24 percent; by 2065 they will be 38 percent.

* The largest current immigrant group is Hispanics but this is changing. By 2055, it will be Asians.

* America has four times more immigrants than the country with the next largest immigrant population (Russia).

Contrary to some political narratives, the changes cited above are supported by Americans.

A recent Gallup poll reports that 73 percent believe immigration is "a good thing. …

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