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A brief overview of the Immigration and Nationality Act

The heated debates over current immigration guidelines and reform efforts that have picked up recently may have many Florida residents feeling as though immigration is a new political issue. The truth of the matter is, however, that political disputes over immigration have existed for generations. In fact, efforts to reform US immigration guidelines in the past are now affecting how we discuss and address many of the immigration issues that we face.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services discusses the Immigration and Nationality Act, and explains that INA was instituted in 1952. Prior to that time, immigration policies were not organized or enforced by a single entity, and were viewed by many as disorganized. The new piece of legislation reorganized the fundamental structure of immigration law, and codified many policies that were already in existence. While the 1952 version of INA established many of the immigration standards and laws that are still in use today, it also led to major immigration reform.

According to NPR, in 1965, reforms that came to the INA were in response to and because of previous legislative actions. Prior to that time, many minority groups and political leaders believed that immigration quotas outlined by the INA were racist in nature, prioritizing the immigration of Western Europeans over those of Asian, Jewish and Mediterranean descent. Consequently, the Immigration and Naturalization Act was passed by President Lyndon Johnson. The bill was intended to level the playing field for immigrants of all ethnic backgrounds, eliminating race-related quotas and prioritizing family sponsorship and employment immigration.

Interestingly, 1965 reform efforts were largely downplayed and underestimated by politicians. Immigration from Asian, African and Eastern European countries did skyrocket in the following years, however, and immigration based on family reunification continues to be a major factor today.

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