With the help of the Pew Research Center’s new data analysis, I have seen the
future and indeed, it is all about us.
When I’m 100 or so, I fully expect my Filipino nurse/caretaker to cheer me up
with the salutation: “We’re No. 1, Mr. G!”
That would be the year 2055, when Pew says Asian Americans will be the largest
immigrant group in America, if current trends and policies continue.
But I hope it won’t be time for me to kick the bucket just yet.
If I hang in ten more years until 2065, the Asian American population is
expected to make up 38 percent of all foreign-born immigrants in the U.S.,
surpassing Hispanics at 31 percent.
By then, we should expect everyone to come kissing our collective Asian
political butts. We may even have the legislative clout to make Lunar New Year a
national holiday, signed into law by the first Asian American president.
If I’m still around, by virtue of my vegan diet and not cryogenics, I’d
definitely say it’s a good time to go amok.
Once again, these aren’t pie-in-the-sky numbers.
This is the trend predicted by Pew that shows our dramatic rise as a
community, from less than one percent in 1965, to six percent in 2015, to more
than double again–14 percent of the total U.S. population by 2065.
But you don’t have to wait 40 years to celebrate. You can start celebrating now.
On Oct. 3, it will be 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson went to the Statue
of Liberty to sign the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, also known as
the Hart-Celler Act.
Quite simply, it was the immigration reform that redefined America, eliminating
the racist quotas based on national origin that allowed immigration from all
parts of Europe but put a strict cap from Asia and Africa.It was our “Come on
in” moment. Why should only white immigrants be allowed to have all the fun?And
just think about how relatively easy it was to pass this immigration bill. The
House vote was 320-70; the Senate vote 76-18. In all, 74 percent of Democrats
and 85 percent of Republicans voted for the bill.When do you get that kind of
partisanship for anything these days? The naming of a post office?After the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, society was opening
up. And America was ready to change its racist immigration laws.America was
always good at race control through immigration. The hand was always tight on
the spigot. Chinese immigrants, mostly male laborers, had been the largest
foreign-born group in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Nevada in 1880.
But the Chinese Exclusion Act changed all that in 1882.When Filipinos, as
colonized U.S. nationals, flooded the fields in California during the
Depression, it was the same thing. Brought over as a male labor force, they took
jobs from whites, and because there were few Filipinas, they married white
women. It started an anti-Filipino fervor that led to the Tydings-McDuffie Act,
which rebranded the Filipinos as aliens and subjected them to
repatriation.Racist laws are nothing new in America.The Immigration and
Nationality Act of 1965 was the way to make up for all that, ending the
artificially repressed generations of Asian Americans.And no one seems to have
expected what would happen.President Johnson was telling folks when he signed
the bill that it would not alter America. Sen. Ted Kennedy on the Senate floor
downplayed it: “The ethnic mix of this country will not be upset.”They had no
idea.When you put an end to “immigration interruptus,” we exploded.Just look at
America’s population if the 1965 law had not passed:
- Whites: 75 percent
- Blacks: 4 percent
- Hispanics: 8 percent
- Asians: Less than 1 percent
That sounds like an America for the people who talk about a not-so-great wall
and use the term “illegal immigrant” as an act of defiance.If that’s you, note
that there are seven states where pre-1965 conditions exist at 1 percent or
less Asian, according to the 2010 Census.There’s Maine and North Dakota at 1
percent; Mississippi and South Dakota at .9 percent; Wyoming, .8 percent; West
Virginia at .7 percent; and Montana at the bottom with .6 percent.Imagine the
visitor bureau slogans: Go to the Dakotas, where it’s still 1965 for Asian
You can probably get real MSG in your egg foo young.But there’s no model
minority and no Tiger Mom, and “Fresh off the Boat” is really about bass
fishing.So you see how very important the Hart-Celler Act, the 1965
immigration reform law, really was for Asian Americans.Go ahead. Start
celebrating now that law signed on Oct. 3.It’s the day that ended Asian
“immigration interruptus,” and allowed us to fulfill our destinies in this
Boomland called America.