That was the year the Immigration and Nationality Act was passed, under the primary sponsorship of young Massachusetts senator Edward M. Kennedy. Few laws have ever had such an effect on the nation:
In the subsequent half century, the pattern of U.S. immigration changed dramatically. The share of the U.S. population born outside the country tripled and became far more diverse. Seven out of every eight immigrants in 1960 were from Europe; by 2010, nine out of ten were coming from other parts of the world. The 1965 Immigration Act was largely responsible for that shift. No law passed in the 20th century altered the country’s demographic character quite so thoroughly. But its effects were largely inadvertent. The law’s biggest impact on immigration patterns resulted from provisions meant to thwart its ability to change much at all.
A part of the ongoing civil-rights movement, the Act — signed by president Johnson fifty years ago this weekend — essentially reversed the tide of European immigration in favor of underrepresented cultures. When some objected to changing the essential nature of the country by inviting the Third World to come in en masse, Teddy said:
Contrary to the charges in some quarters, [the bill] will not inundate America with immigrants from any one country or area… In the final analysis, the ethnic pattern of immigration under the proposed measure is not expected to change as sharply as the critics seem to think…. The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs.
Like so much of what the Democrat Party has done since then, the joke’s on us.