This letter is written to Father Lydio Tomasi on January 19,1983 from Eugene F. Higgins thanking him for his contributions and insights regarding refugee situations that is happening around the world during the 1980s. It is part of the Directors’ Files of CMS Collection #084A, Box 4, Folder 41.
Immigration has had an enormous role in shaping the United States as a nation. There are many reasons for one to immigrate and such decisions are major and life-changing. Conflicts between nations, as well as economic turmoil, displace millions of people all over the world. What happens when the people are forced to flee their homelands to escape and seek refuge in another nation? Thus, immigration becomes an essential topic for understanding and discussion. With such need, people like Father Lydio F. Tomasi, along with a few of his community of Catholic priests, nuns, and laypeople founded the Center for Migration Studies. Continue reading →
Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA, or the Simpson–Mazzoli Act) had been introduced to the Senate since 1981. However, it took five years of debates until it was passed by the U.S. Congress. It was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on November 6, 1986. The IRCA has two major provisions that are of focus. Firstly, it established penalties for employers who hire undocumented immigrants. Second, it addressed legalized undocumented immigrants who had arrived in the country before January 1, 1982. By far, the IRCA has granted the largest scale of amnesty in U.S. history, since almost three million undocumented immigrants benefited from the legalization program.
Taken during a meeting between President John F. Kennedy and the American Committee for Italian Migration (ACIM) on October 12, 1963. During this meeting, President Kennedy promised to send his proposals on immigration reform to congress.
Authored by Coreen Getgen
Immigration has been one of the hottest topics in recent politics. As a nation, we have treated this topic as something that is new and radical. In all actuality, immigration and immigration reform have been major political topics for much longer than the past few years. Continue reading →
A copy of the American Jewish Committee (AJC)’s Statement on current immigration policy, stapled together with the business card of Gary E. Rubin, then-director of AJC’s Center on Immigration and Acculturation.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) has a long history of advocating for social justice and human rights, spanning from 1906 to the present day (American Jewish Committee, n.d.). Set upon the backdrop of 1986’s immigration reform bill, this document in the Garner J. Cline Collection at the Center for Migration Studies is a statement by the AJC arguing against a cap on immigration that would affect family reunification, as well as advocating for the admission of refugees (American Jewish Committee 1984). This Simpson-Mazzoli Bill – which ultimately passed in 1986 – was brought into existence with the intention of reducing illegal immigration, for example by penalizing businesses that knowingly employed undocumented people (Plumer 2013). However, this bill was criticized by those such as Congressman Edward Roybal, who argued that it would be discriminatory against Latino communities (History, Art and Archives, n.d.). In the document we can see the AJC advocating for Roybal’s version of the bill, which eliminated employer sanctions and introduced more generous means for undocumented people to naturalize (Montejano 1999).
This is a hidden compartment meant to smuggle in illegal aliens from Mexico, taken in 1968.
In 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson (Ball et al 2017). This act ended the quota system started in the 1920s that had been put in place that gave preference to those of European origin, and instead created a system that was meant to reunite immigrant families and attract skilled workers (History.com 2010). This original quota system, however, did not include Mexico (The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress 2015). Because of this, temporary workers from Mexico were often hired to work on farms as part of the Bracero Program (Ball et al 2017). However, even after the end of this program as well as the introduction of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, former workers that were part of the Bracero Program would still cross over the border to work these farm jobs.
“Illegal Migration Examined at San Antonio Hearing.” Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy Newsletter No. 3 (January 1980)
In August of 1981, joint committees of the U.S. house and senate released the final report of the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy (SCIRP), entitled U.S. Immigration Policy and the National Interest (1981). Based on years of work, the final report of the commission recommended “closing the back door to undocumented/illegal migration, opening the front door a little more to accommodate legal migration in the interests of this country” (U.S. Congress 1981, 3) and stressed the need to work with other countries to improve the conditions that cause migration and exile (Fragomen 1981).
Figure 1: Letter from Peter Regis to Garner J. Cline, in 1979, regarding the overflow of Soviet Jew refugees in Rome.
One of the hot topics in today’s political climate is the refugee crisis. On January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning refugees from Muslim countries from entering the US for 90 days, and suspended the US refugee programme for 120 days. This contentious national issue is nothing new. In fact, the banning of refugees can be traced back through US history.
President Kennedy Press Conference on the Immigration and Nationality Act June 11, 1963, Abby Rowe/White House “Immigration policy should be generous; it should be fair; it should be flexible. With such a policy we can turn to the world, and to our own past, with clean hands and a clear conscience.” John F Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants
Here we see a relaxed President Kennedy, laughing during a break at a press conference but what he was discussing were serious matters for the future face of America. The President was compelled to write “A Nation of Immigrants” after repeatedly hearing the stories of immigrant’s rights groups, such as at this meeting with the American Committee on Italian Migration.
When Kennedy first came into office, Henry Cabot Lodge’s Immigration Act of 1924 had been diligently enforced under the firm hand of the Immigration Restriction League (a prominent lobbying group founded in 1884).  For four decades, the Immigration Act of 1924 used quotas to prohibit all ‘non-nativist’ nationalities, in particular Jewish, Irish and Italians fleeing Europe. However, it also had punitive effects on the almost historically unrecognized Arabic and Asian immigrants. As the threat of communism and post war depression flooded across Europe and Asia, waves of immigrants risked their lives to journey to America, only to be turned away at Ellis Island, due to these racist and religious discriminatory laws. Continue reading →
A letter dated June 15, 1963, from Maxime Maurice Caretti of Brooklyn to the House of Representatives Committee on Immigration, is archived in the Endres Collection held by the Center for Migration Studies (CMS). Arthur P. Endres was legal counsel to the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and International Law, from 1973 to 1989. (CMS Archivist 2015) The Endres Collection is comprised of thirteen linear feet of documents and records kept by Mr. Endres as part of his immigration-related legal work for the House of Representatives, ibid. Mr. Caretti’s letter is one of just a few pieces of original correspondence from private citizens found in the Endres Collection, ibid. Continue reading →