The Return of Mass Immigration
T he shift in federal civil rights policy, from an equal treatment basis in the 1960s to an equal result basis in the 1970s, demonstrates a modern trend toward unintended consequences in social legislation. The phenomenon of surprising results from policy changes is not unique to reforms of the 1960s. But so ambitious was the agenda of Great Society reforms in the 1960s, and so hurried was much of their planning and enactment during br vast legislative outpouring of 1964–68, that unintended consequences flourished. Historian Steven Gillon, in his book “That's Not What We Meant to Do, ” discusses five such boomerang reforms since Franklin Roosevelt's New Dealers came to Washington in 1933. 1 Three of Gillon's examples are 1960s programs: the Community Mental Health Act of 1963, which deinstitutionalized the mentally ill; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and the Immigration Act of 1965. The latter two reforms, although effective in achieving their immediate, intended results, have become modern classics of unintended long-term consequences.
As we have seen, the bipartisan sponsors of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 pledged that it would abolish the national origins quota system but not otherwise significantly change the number or composition of immigration to America. Initially the immigration reforms of 1965 appeared to work as intended. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, most immigrants came to America from southern and eastern Europe, as the law's sponsors had predicted. Immigration officials gave priority to working through a backlog of visa applications from relatives of American citizens living in the