The Immigration Act of 1965: Then and Now
- Mark K. Updegrove, Director, Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library
- Tom Gjelten, National Public Radio correspondent and Author, A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story
- Paul Taylor, Author, The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown
- Hiroshi Motomura, Susan Westerberg Prager Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law, and Author, Immigration Outside the Law
- Doris Meissner, Senior Fellow and Director, U.S. Immigration Policy Program, MPI
- Muzaffar Chishti, Director, MPI's office at NYU School of Law
When President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Immigration Act of 1965 into law during a ceremony at the foot of the Statue of Liberty almost 50 years ago, few could have imagined the dramatic changes the measure would bring to the face of America. In signing the law, which abolished discriminatory national-origin quotas, President Johnson said: “It does repair a very deep and painful flaw in the fabric of American justice.” The Act’s October 3 anniversary provides an opportunity to assess the full historical, political, and policy significance of the measure, which continues to underpin today’s legal immigration system. And with continuing deep divisions and legislative logjams in U.S. immigration policymaking, it is worth understanding how legislation as sweeping as the ’65 Act was understood and enacted.
This discussion among distinguished scholars and commentators looks at the political and policy dynamics that came together to make the ’65 Act possible, and place the country on a course towards today’s diverse society. The symposium highlights the convergence of politics, events, and personalities that resulted in its passage; how the Act changed the legal immigration system, setting U.S. policy on a new course; the ways it has reshaped the demographics of the United States; the effect of these changes on important legal and constitutional questions; and what these changes mean for the nation’s future.