Asian Americans No. 1 by 2065, but let’s celebrate the 50th anniversary of the end of racist quotas and “immigration interruptus” now

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.

Image by AALDEF

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.

Image by AALDEF

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 Americans!

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.

Image by AALDEF

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.

Read Emil's full bio →