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Mar 29, 2022 | Rommel H. Ojeda

How the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 Upheld Controversial Immigration Quotas

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Also known as the McCarran-Walter Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA) was intended to reform immigration laws that had for a long time harmed U.S. international relations due to the quota and preference system introduced in the Immigration Act of 1924. However, rather than to fix the controversial policies that favored northern and western European countries, the INA reinforced them by upholding and codifying the national origins quota system. 

Under the National Origins Quota System, annual immigration was capped at one-sixth of one percent of each nationality’s population in the United States in 1920, which resulted in 85% of the 155,000 available visas going to individuals of northern and western Europe.

INA also removed previous laws that prevented Asians from immigrating and naturalizing. But it also imposed a 100-visa annual limit for every Asian country and created a quota system based on race, rather than nationality, in which an individual with one or more Asian parent, born anywhere in the world and possessing the citizenship of any nation, would be counted toward the national quota of the Asian nation of their race. 

The low quota allotment and the discriminatory racial construction for how to apply ensured total Asian immigration remained very low.

Additionally, the Immigration and Nationality Act initiated significant reforms seen in later immigration acts that prioritized immigration by skill workers and family reunification.

Also read: IIRIRA: Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, explained

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