In 1965, The United States Congress passed the Immigration and Naturalization Act, which replaced the Johnson-Reed Act, which was enacted in 1924 (Berlin; Ngai 73). This new act did away with preferential immigration status for northern Europeans and the discrimination against Chinese, African, and Mexican immigrants (Berlin). It also did away with the restriction on the number of immigrants who could enter the United States based on their nation of origin, and adopted a first-come, first-served system (Berlin). The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 changed the face of immigration in the United States, as well as the lives of immigrants in this country.
With the passing of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, Chinese, African, and Mexican citizens, who had been restricted from coming to the United States in the past, were afforded the right to legally emigrate to this country (). The purpose of immigration, as defined by most Americans, is to eventual become a United States citizen (). However, some immigrants do not follow the “citizenship path,” and prefer to keep the national heritage of their countries of origin, while living legally in the United States ().
Illegal aliens, who come to this country without following the correct channels; usually by crossing a border secretly, are a special category of immigrants. While they are integral to the labor force in this country, and central to many industries which the majority of non-immigrant American avoid, they are not eligible to receive services available to American citizens and are not afforded many of the same rights as either legal immigrants who have become citizens or naturally born citizens (Ngai 75). Therefore, the experience of legal and illegal immigrants is very different. The primary difference is that legal immigrants are allowed, and even encouraged, to pursue United States citizenship, while illegal immigrants are not. Illegal immigrants are, therefore, what Ngai referred to as “…pos[ing]…a predicament and challenge to a liberal democratic society” (Ngai 76). In short, American society does not know how to think about or handle illegal immigrants, although it is possible in some cases for them to change their status and become legal immigrants (Ngai 76). It is also possible for immigrants in this country legally to become illegal, through the commission of certain crimes, and be deported and denied re-entry (Ngai 76). This is true even if they are married to American citizens and have American-born children.
Many people, including President-elect Donald Trump, are against the existence of so-called ‘anchor babies’, who are born to illegal immigrants but afforded American citizenship due to their birth taking place in this country (Constable; Parvini). Most citizens assume that illegal immigrants have their babies in this country purposefully to “anchor” their position here, although studies have shown that this is usually not the case. The majority of illegal immigrants who give birth in the United States have been in this country for over 10 years (Parvini), and have their children simply because they are now ensconced in American culture and usually involved in a relationship with, or are married to, and American citizen (Parvini). However, in some cases, pregnant women from other countries engage in what is termed “pregnancy tourism,” in which they will enter the United States for the sole purpose of having their baby, who will automatically be an American citizen (Constable). This, however, is the exception, not the rule.
The problem that most native-born citizens have with ‘anchor babies’ is that, as citizens, they are afforded all of the rights of citizenship, including being able to receive benefits for low-income families (Constable). Many citizens also fear that having an American citizen as a child makes it more difficult to deport illegal immigrants, even if they commit crimes. This is not, however, usually the case. Many illegal immigrants, and even immigrants here legally, have been deported after being convicted of a crime, whether or not they are married to American citizens or have children whom are citizens (Constable).
Following the passing of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, there was a great increase in the number of immigrants arriving from African countries (Berlin). While the immigration of Africans had been severely restricted prior to the 1965 act, its passing allowed for this previously unwanted and unwelcome group to emigrate into this country in large numbers (Berlin). According to Berlin, the number of immigrants who entered from a variety of places complicates the definition of “African-American” for many people, as some immigrants deny that the term applies to them, and others who wish to claim that nationality are denied the ability by American-born African-Americans on the basis that their ancestors did not actually come from Africa (Berlin).
Since 1965, the face of immigration has changed a great deal. Before 1965, immigration law greatly favored northern Europeans and restricted or denied the emigration of people from certain nations. Post-1965, people from all nations were allowed to legally emigrate to the United States and seek citizenship.