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Family Histories
The Peopling of America
The Peopling of America
A timeline showing forces behind immigration and their impact on the immigrant experience.
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Pre-1790 1790 1820 1880 1930 1965 2000
The effects of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 were immediate and significant. Within 5 years, Asian immigration would more than quadruple. This trend was magnified even further by the surge in refugees from the war in South East Asia.

On the other side of the world, Cuban refugees told a similar story: "we got a telegram in the middle of the night saying that we were authorized to goI remember I kept on looking back at my home and feeling very bad, very sad, and then going to Havana and going to the plane. My father was in a nervous state."

But escaping the Cold War conflicts of the 60s and 70s was not the only draw for the country's newest immigrants. Throughout this period, in a policy that continues to this day, the government has given preferences to professionals like doctors, nurses, scientists, and hi-tech specialists, creating what is often called the "Brain Drain." Many of these skilled workers are women, who are often the first link in a chain of migration, working and saving enough money to bring family members to the US.

California now stands at the crossroads of America's newest cultures, receiving most of the immigrants from the Asian mainland and the Philippines, Mexico, and Central America. Their influence is felt from the Imperial Valley to Silicon Valley.

Immigrants can enter the country by air, by sea, and by land routes through Canada and Mexico, making it easier than ever to enter the country illegally. Through the 80s and 90s illegal immigration was a constant topic of political debate. In 1986, the government gave amnesty to more than 3 million aliens through the Immigration Reform Act, but during the recession years of the early 90s, there was a resurgence of anti-immigrant feeling.

Still, immigration rates through the 1990s soared, leaving today's generation with lingering questions: Does America have a duty to keep its doors open to the world? Can immigrants keep their own culture and language, and still be called Americans? Is continued economic growth in America dependent upon a liberal immigration policy? The debates will certainly continue, as new immigrants arrive on our shores daily, bringing with them their own histories, traditions, and ideas, all of which broaden and enrich our sense of what it means to be an American.


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