I had to answer that so far, to my surprise and disappointment, my phone is not ringing off the hook (so to speak – that expression dates for sure!) It seems a new book by one of my favorite NPR public radio hosts Tom Gjelten is trumping mine in the big TV and radio shows, book reviews and panels ... at least at this time. He and other new books about immigration tell stories (the new emphasis of narrative journalism) about diverse immigrants - Latinos, Asians, Arabs and for Tom five diverse families in highly cosmopolitan Fairfax Virginia. While Tom admits his families have no direct connection to the 1965 law, nevertheless he ties their examples of diversity to the change in immigration law that became Ted Kennedy’s legacy when in 1965 the INA did away with immigration choice based on national origins. The opening up of America to immigrants from every race, creed, religion and national origin is a significant impact of the law that will be 50 years old on Oct. 3.
BUT I WRITE ABOUT THE MANY OTHER impacts and unintended consequences of the law. They include the huge increase in the number of temporary visa holders (over 2 million a year, over 900,000 foreign students alone) and in the number of immigrants living and working in the country illegally (11 million and rising, a growing proportion of whom are overstaying unenforced temporary visas) – a subject that Tom Gjelten said on the Diane Rehm show Sept. 15 he doesn’t talk about. Yet illegal immigration is one of the huge unintended consequences of the 1965 law. As is the exploding immigration crisis in Europe this summer (and on our Southern borders last summer) when millions of migrants surged from the southern hemisphere to the borders of Europe and the USA demanding the right to immigrate (refugees are given peranent immigration status in the USA). My book explains why the 1965 law is a factor in all this and how we will change soon again our immigration laws in response to these changing conditions. It’s a complex but understandable story about now the drivers of migration – economic, demographic, technological and political – also drive immigration law.
OK it’s history, boring for some I suppose compared to hardship stories of individual immigrants. But its our nation’s immigration story told from the point of view of the Nation’s interest. We are a NATION of immigrants after all; to be successful the interests of both immigrants and the nation have to be balanced. Those interests change over time. And they are different for every sovereign nation state. That’s why making national immigration law is so challenging, and always a work in progress. And so interesting! Which is what MY book is about.