tv Immigration and the Hart- Celler Act CSPAN August 28, 2015 9:26pm-9:45pm EDT
the news just this past summer when central american refugees, many of them, most of them children or mothers, were coming across the border to the united states for asylum. and for many weeks, we did not know what conditions these young immigrant detainees were being housed in but a few weeks into it, we were able to find and get some sneak peeks, some pictures. this is just one photograph of the processing facility in brownsville, texas. it can be argued that we're in a current state of immigration detention crisis. so let me just read off a couple of numbers for you. in 2011, the department of homeland security held a record-breaking 429,000
immigrants in over 250 facilities across the country. so 429,000 people, immigrants were detained in 2011. that translates into about 33,400 beds a day. advocates argue that the majority of detentions are not actually necessary. so, remember that detentions in ellis island were about one to two days. angel island, as hard as they were, averaged in the two to three weeks. today incarceration periods range from 37 days to 10 months. so we have 300,000 immigrants who were detained in angel island over 30 years compared to in 2011 alone, this is the most recent statistics, 429,000 in one year.
so, it's been 50 years since we've passed comprehensive immigration reform. we're recognizing or honoring the 50 th anniversary of the 1965 immigration act and it's clear from the headlines that i showed at the beginning that we're in a current debate over immigration about which there does not seem to be any easy solution. so how do we connect this to angel island, then? i would argue that angel island represents the best and the worst of america's immigration history. there are many, many immigrant families, including my own, who can trace their roots back to angel island and have made it through the educational system and can now celebrate generations of being in the united states. but there are many others for which that detention experience best mirrors this other side of immigration that we're also
experiencing today. so i want to end by reading from the organization that dedicates itself to the preservation and education about immigration through angel island and through the pacific coast in general. it collects and preserves the rich stories of immigrants both through angel island and elsewhere. and also does a lot of education and outreach. and it says in their mission statement that angel island reminds us of the complicated history of immigration in america. it serves as a symbol of our willingness to learn from our past, to ensure that our nation keeps its promise of liberty and freedom. and if you want to learn more, you can go to the angel island website. it has an amazing range and archive of immigrant voices, many of which are based on the collection of family histories
and poems in the book that we've read, but also there are many coming in every day. thank you so much. that's it for today. and we'll see you next time. florence harding once said she had only one hobby, and that was warren harding. she was adept at handling the media. despite her husband's death in office as well as her own poor health, she would help define the role of the modern first lady. florence hard, this sunday night at 8 eastern. examining the public and private lives of the women who filled the position of first lady. and their influence on the presidency. from martha washington to michelle obama, sundays at
8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span3. >> reentdly american history tv was at the society for historians of american foreign relations annual meeting in arlingt arlington, virginia. we spoke with professors, authors and fraught students about they're research. this interview is about 20 minutes. >> maria kristina garcia, a professor on immigration. you're focusing on cold war era. what do you tell your students and what have you been telling your colleagues at this conference? >> what do i tell my students? i tell them that probably everything they know about immigration and refugees is probably wrong. we have quite a bit of mythology about immigrants and our immigrant history. in my courses, i try to tackle that mythology and try to help them discern what is true and
what is false about what they know about immigrants. here at the conference, what i focussed on was the intersections of immigration history and foreign policy history. these are two fields that even though they are intersected, they haven't engaged in a conversation together for some time. they should because one could argue that immigrants are the poster children of foreign policy. >> and this is a personal story for you. >> my family immigrated from cuba in the 1960s. i've always been interested in the experience of immigrants and refugees in particular. >> how often have you been back to cuba? >> about three or four times. my first trip was in 1991 during the so-called special period in cuba, and more recently, my most recent trip was three years ago. i led a tour of cornell alumni
back to cuba for a ten-day period and we traveled through the island and got a sense of how to island as changed. >> how has the country changed, and, obviously, you left as a young baby, but what do you remember? >> well, i don't remember anything about that early period when i lived in cuba, but americans have the wrong idea about due bcuba. they feel it's a landlocked in time. how many times have people said we have to go to cuba before it changed. cuba has been changing dramatically over the last 50 years, and just because there are these wonderful 1950s erika automobiles on the streets, doesn't mean the society hasn't been changing. and every time you visit cuba, you get a sense of how the society is changing and the sense of the hopes and dreams of the cuban people. >> the hart-cellar act, what was
that? >> well, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the hart-cellar act. it was passed to remove the national origins quotas that had been in place since the 1920s. these national origins quotas reduced or eliminated all together immigration from southern and eastern europe and asia and other parts of the world. the americas were largely excluded from these quota laws because big business needed labor from some parts of the world. exceptions were made from countries from the americas. hart-cellar, what it did is instead of putting individual limits on immigration from particular countries, it established hemispheric limits. it created a quota of 170,000 from the eastern hemisphere and for the first time it imposed a
limit on the western hemisphere of 120,000. about a decade later in the 1970s, these hemispheric limits were abandoned in favor of an overall ceiling of 290,000. but the law has been amended many times and today the quota is much larger. >> have there been unintended consequences? >> yes. at least that's what the immigration history tells us. there were two in particular. one having to do with the source countries. the other one having to do with numbers. for much of american history, our immigration has come largely from europe and from africa. but as a result of hart-cellar, we see a demographic shift. after 1965, over 07% of our immigrants have come from the americas and other parts of the developing world. that's one unintended consequence. the second has to do with overall numbers. as i mentioned before, we have a
global ceiling. at present in 2015, the global ceiling is 675,000, but the law also prioritizes admission for family members of american citizens and permanent residents and it prioritizes people with particular job skills. if you fit in one of those two categories, you can immigrate outside of the global ceiling so the actual number of people who have come in each year is much higher than the global ceiling. in 2015 the global ceiling is 675,000, but we also admit an additional 480,000 under a family you reunification visa. we have a minimum of 140,000 employee, and then we bring in
70,000 refugees under the separate track in the immigration bureaucracy. the actual number who have come in each year has hovered in 1 million mark in terms of authorized migration, and then we have an unknown number of people who come without authorization j but we don't know what the actual numbers are. >> that's my next question. some say it's 11 million. others say it's higher. as you follow the debate today over immigration and the illegal immigrants, what are your thoughts? >> well, first, i should say, people have been migrating back and forth from their countries of origin to the united states. what happens with hart-cellar is that for the first time you put a limit on people from the americas. so that means that this migration that had existed since the early 19th century were people were moving back and forth across the u.s., mexico
border, they labor was actively recruited for the american labor market, suddenly after 1965, that migration becomes limited. but the patterns of migration continue to exist. so people continue to migrate but suddenly, those people find that they are labeled unauthorized while prior to 1975, they were just part of the natural order of things. they had been migrating freely for generations. individuals who are coming from mexico without authorization, they are migrating to an area of the united states that was once part of their country. over half of our country was once half of mexico. so their ancestors have been migrating to the united states for generations, and so suddenly, the labeling of this migration as unauthorized is a fairly recent phenomenon. you finally, you know, you give a name to it and that's what makes it unauthorized. >> why do they come to the
united states? what are they looking for? >> they come far wide range of reasons. let me talk about migration from the americas in general. you know, as i said before, people from the americas have been coming to the united states since the 19th century, and primarily from mexico, cuba and puerto rico. puerto rico is an interesting case study, because after 1917 when congress passes the jones act, they become u.s. citizens. so they are the one group from the americas that are not immigrants, technically. they are u.s. citizens. they're just traveling from unu.s. territory to the continental united states. since the early 19th century, we've seen significant migration from mexico, cuba, and puerto rico. there are other migrations that are a more recent phenomenon. they are the products of empire, of military and foreign policy interventions, so, for example, the dominican republic.
it's one of the major sources of authorized and unthorsed migration. it has little prior to 1961. the dictatorship wouldn't allow it. after that, civil war breaks out and the united states uses migration as a way to politically and economically stabilize the dominican republic, and the united states encourages migration as stabilization. that continues to today, and today over 20% of dominicans live outside of their country of origin. mostly in the united states and in puerto rico. >> can you take it one step further and talk about the waves of migration over the years? not only in the last 50 years but over the last 2 00 years. what we've seen and when in this country? >> oh, do you have a couple of
hours? it's a fascinating history. in the 19th century, the migration is primarily european, and african, and most of the migration that is african is in shave labor but that experience is central to the history of the united states and to our economic and political formation as well, and so it's a different kind of immigrant experience. it's a forced migration. at first during most of the 19th century, the migration from europe is coming from northern and western europe. around the 1880s, that begins to shift. and we see that most of the migration that's coming from europe is coming from southern and eastern europe. you also begin to see a large scale migration from certain asian countries, particularly china and japan, but also increasingly, the philippines.
chinese migration is the first migration to be restricted by congress in the 1880s, they pass the chinese exclusion act. that's the first time that congress deliberately prevents a particular group from immigrating to the united states. and it's not until 1943 that chie naez a chinese are allowed to immigrate again. they are given a small number of slots, and it's really not until the 1960 that has you begin to see an up tick in the number of chinese immigrants who come to the u.s. >> you can take this either way, whether or not the u.s. can learn from other countries that have a high immigration rate or whether other countries learn from the u.s. about what we do with immigration. how would you respond? >> i think we tend to view the american experience as exceptional, but i think we see echoes of the american
experience and american policy in other parts of the world, and i think now, especially in the post 9/11 era, there is greater discussions on immigration policy. i know that certainly for the americas, every year or every couple of years representatives from the united states and the various countries in the americas gather to discuss a wide range of issues, and migration is one of them, because migration is a reality in today's world. at present, if you've been following recent reports, released this past week from the united nations, the number of people who are refugees and who are displaced internally, forced to cross international borders is really staggering. it's at an all-time high. >> you taught at texas a and m
for a number of years and in new york. if we were in class right now, what kind of questions are the students asking about this and what answers are they looking for in regard to immigration. >> great question. students take my classes for a wide range of reasons. some of them are immigrants themselves or the children of immigrants and they want to understand their family's experience and put it in a larger context to see how their experience compares to those who came before them. that's one set of motivations. others approach it from a policy standpoint. they're interested in american government. they're interested in a legislative responses, and the history of the presidency, and they want to understand how immigration policy has changed, and what is the appropriate course of action. i think we're all in agreement that we're at a moment in our history where we need to reconsider our immigration policy. and we're not in agreement about what that should look