Historical Background when the INA was enacted
When this piece of legislation was enacted, our nation was on the brink of historic change. We had just seen the passing of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, and it was evident that our nation was changing the way it viewed many sensitive issues. Our nations view on immigration was considered by many to be very backwards, as it was based on trying to meet quotas of having immigrants from different areas. The INA started the vision of reunifying families, which is what we see today with family based green cards and DACA, two programs built around the premise of keeping families together.
How did the INA change the immigration framework?
The INA abolished the national origins quota system that in place since the 1920s. Instead instituting a preference system focused on immigrants’ skills and family relationships with U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (green card holders). Visas were limited to 170,000 per year, with a per-country-of-origin quota unless one was an immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.
The law pre-INA excluded Asians and Africans and preferred northern and western Europeans over southern and eastern ones. The bill also prohibited the entry into the country of “sexual deviants”, including homosexuals. Homosexual immigrants were considered “mentally defective” or had a “constitutional psychopathic inferiority.” This provision was revoked in the Immigration Act of 1990.