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The 1965 Immigration Act and the Civil Right's Movements

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The civil rights movement of the 1960s was catalyzed in 1955 by two major events. In August, a 14-year-old Black boy from Chicago named Emmett Till was brutally murdered while visiting family in Mississippi. He was accused of harassing an adult white woman. Emmett’s mother held a public, open-casket funeral in Chicago attended by more than 50,000 people

The murderers were soon acquitted by a jury composed of white men, despite overwhelming evidence of their guilt. Later that same year Rosa Parks was arrested in Alabama for refusing to give her seat up to a white passenger, spurring a yearlong boycott of the bus system. She considered moving to the back of the bus, it’s reported, but then thought of Emmett Till and couldn’t do it.

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The affects from the slavery era brought upon the civil rights movement. As soon as the United States was discovered people used African- American’s for forced labor. According to Jacobs, “During the four centuries of the Atlantic slave trade, an estimated 11 million Africans were transported to North and South America.” The vast majority of these people were brought to North and South America against their will. They were often abused both mentally and physically and they were even separated from their families. The reason why most slaves could not stay with their families is because slaves had no say in where they lived or who they worked for. If someone would abuse them, there was nowhere they could go for help because they had no rights. It was even illegal for them to learn how to read and write. The reason for this is people knew if they had an education there was a better chance at a revolt. Slavery did not exist in the northern Part of the United States and Canada; as a result, many slaves would often try to escape to the north were they had a better chance of living a humane life. The people who were against slavery would sometimes try to help African- American’s escape slave life. The Underground Railroad is a prime example of people helping African- Americans escape to the north. According to Brooks, “The Underground Railroad had no track and no locomotives; it was, instead, a system set up by opponents of slavery in the antebellum United States to help slaves escape to free states, Canada, and other locations, around 75,000 slaves were freed.” People knew the government would not change policies if they just stood around. People took action regardless of the fact that if they got caught helping African- Americans escape to freedom, they could have been sent to jail or even killed. Not only was slavery inhumane, but think of all the great minds we lost because of slavery. If slavery did not exist I would bet everything I have that we would be a more advanced society. The United States Civil War was the framework of giving freedom to African- Americans. The American Civil War was the result of decades of tensions between the north and south. According to Hickman, “After the1860 election over the next several months eleven southern states seceded and formed the Confederate States of America.” President Lincoln wanted to preserve the union; as a result, the civil war began.

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The year 1965 is often cited as a turning point in the history of US immigration, but what happened in the ensuing years is not well understood. Amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act passed in that year repealed the national origins quotas, which had been enacted during the 1920s in a deliberate attempt to limit the entry of Southern and Eastern European immigrants—or more specifically Jews from the Russian Pale and Catholics from Poland and Italy, groups at the time deemed “unassimilable.” The quotas supplemented prohibitions already in place that effectively banned the entry of Asians and Africans. The 1965 amendments were intended to purge immigration law of its racist legacy by replacing the old quotas with a new system that allocated residence visas according to a neutral preference system based on family reunification and labor force needs. The new system is widely credited with having sparked a shift in the composition of immigration away from Europe toward Asia and Latin America, along with a substantial increase in the number of immigrants. Thus the 1965 legislation in no way can be invoked to account for the rise in immigration from Latin America. Nonetheless, Latin American migration did grow. Legal immigration from the region grew from a total of around 459,000 during the decade of the 1950s to peak at 4.2 million during the 1990s, by which time it made up 44 percent of the entire flow, compared with 29 percent for Asia, 14 percent for Europe, 6 percent for Africa, and 7 percent for the rest of the world (US Department of Homeland Security 2012).

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Finally, as we become increasingly interconnected to each other across national borders through technology and transportation, we are no longer isolated from events halfway around the world. The current refugee crisis in Europe is likely not a singular anomaly, but rather a sign of things to come. As was the case in 1965, how the United States will respond to this new age of global migration will be another test of how it lives up to, or fails to live up to its values and its reputation as a “nation of immigrants.”

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US Department of Homeland Security. [Accessed 1/5/12];Website of the Office of Immigration Statistics. 2012

Chavez Leo R. Covering Immigration: Population Images and the Politics of the Nation. Berkeley: University of California Press; 2001.

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