Posted on September 19, 2011

Bachmann Claims Immigration Worked ‘Very Well’ Before 1960s Reforms, When Nonwhites Were Excluded

Nicolas Mendoza, Washington Independent, September 13, 2011

At the Florida tea party debate on Monday, GOP presidential candidate and Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann criticized policies allowing undocumented immigrants to receive in-state tuition for public universities by hearkening back to a previous era. From CNN’s debate transcript:

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN: … I think that the American way is not to give taxpayer subsidized benefits to people who have broken our laws or who are here in the United States illegally. That is not the American way. Because the immigration system in the United States worked very, very well up until the mid-1960s when liberal members of Congress changed the immigration laws.

What works is to have people come into the United States with a little bit of money in their pocket legally with sponsors so that if anything happens to them, they don’t fall back on the taxpayers to take care of them. And then they also have to agree to learn the speak the English language, learn American history and our constitution. That’s the American way.

In her criticism of liberal immigration reform, Bachmann was presumably referring to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, or Hart-Celler Act, which ended the de facto national origins quotas that had governed U.S. immigration policy since 1924. As ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser writes:

In 1924, Congress passed a package of immigration laws–including the National Origins Act and the Asian Exclusion Act–establishing a quota system giving preferential treatment to European immigrants. Under these laws, the number of immigrants who could be admitted from a given country was capped at a percentage of the number of people from that nation who were living in the United States in 1890. Because Americans were overwhelming of European descent in 1890, the practical effect of these laws was an enormous thumb on the scale encouraging white immigration.