US

Pew: 1965 Immigration Law Exploded Foreign-Born Population

A re-write of U.S. immigration policy in 1965 led to an unprecedented immigration wave that has reshaped the racial and ethnic makeup of the United States, a new study shows.

“This bill we sign today is not a revolutionary bill,” President Lyndon B. Johnson said when he signed the Immigration and Nationality Act into law. “It does not affect the lives of millions.”

The law opened the door to immigrants from Asia, the Middle East and Latin America by scrapping a long-standing national origins quota in favor of a system that emphasizes family reunification and skills.

A new Pew Research Center analysis finds the policy led to an immigration wave larger than the European-dominated waves of the 19th and early 20th centuries that drove U.S. population growth and reshaped the demographic landscape.

1. Driving Population Growth

New immigrants and their descendants accounted for 55 percent of U.S. population growth since 1965, adding 72 million to the U.S. population as it grew by about two-thirds. Pew projects they’ll add another 103 million (including their descendants) to the U.S. population by 2065.

The share of the U.S. population that is foreign-born has jumped from 5 percent to a near-record 14 percent. By 2065, Pew projects nearly 1 in 5 U.S. residents will be foreign-born.

The size of the foreign-born population has increased sharply from 9.6 million to a record 45 million, and is projected to reach 78 million by 2065, when deaths and departures from the U.S. are accounted for.

2. Shifting Demographics

Half of the modern wave is from Latin America and one-quarter is from Asia and the Middle East, compared to past waves dominated by European immigrants.

The share of non-Hispanic whites has declined from 84 percent in 1965 to 62 percent since 1965. At the same time, the Hispanic share of the population rose from 4 percent to 18 percent and the Asian and Middle East population from less than 1 percent to 6 percent.

Without the post-1965 immigration, Pew finds the demographics would be 75 percent white, 14 percent black, 8 percent Hispanic and less than 1 percent Asian and Middle Eastern.

3. More Coming From Asia And Middle East

Pew projects Asian and Middle Eastern immigrants will surpass Hispanics to become the largest immigrant group by 2055, making up 38 percent of the foreign-born population and 14 percent of the total population.

No racial or ethnic group will constitute a majority of the U.S. population by 2055, Pew projects. Non-Hispanic whites will become less than half of the U.S. population.

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