Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Asian Exclusion Act?

(via Pandagon) angry asian man is characterizing a recently-leaked immigration reform paper as a new incarnation of the Immigration Act of 1924, otherwise known as the Asian Exclusion Act. If his characterization were correct that would be pretty much all bad; the AEA limited immigration solely on the basis of people's nationality and explicitly excluded many people of Asian descent. But reading through aam's post I immediately noticed the following:

And according to the Office of Immigration Statistics, the Asian American community is the second largest group of immigrants who enter the United States through family sponsorship or by being immediate relatives of American citizens. [Emphasis mine]
My immediate though, of course, was that if this could legitimately be characterized as some sort of "exclusion act" the people with the most ground for complaint would be the largest group. aam doesn't provide a link to the data that he's citing, but I imagine its similar to the stats which can be found on this page. Table 10 seems to be the most germane, listing as it does region and country of origin as well as the class of admission.

aam cites both the "family sponsorship" and "immediate relatives" categories. He correctly notes that Asians represent the second largest group in both categories. What he neglects to mention, however, is that North Americans represent the largest group in both categories. If you break it down by country then Mexico comes out on top in both categories. China and the Philippines are neck-and-neck for second place, but aam doesn't even mention the Philippines in his post.

So its probably irresponsible to characterize this as an "Asian Exclusion Act". In order for the comparison to be valid aam needs to demonstrate deliberate targeting of Asians. That's a hard charge to support when Mexicans represent the group which will be most heavily affected.

More importantly, saying this draft proposal is "Anti-Family" is also something of a stretch1. Look at the specific categories of person that the draft seeks to limit:

  • Parents
  • Children over age 21
  • Siblings
This proposal isn't going to tear mothers away from children or husbands away from wives. Rather, its try to limit the number of extended family members who are granted legal residence.

Where you stand on that depends, in large part, on your beliefs about immigration in general. If you believe that unlimited immigration is infeasible then you're going to have to exclude somebody; limiting the number of extended family members that can be granted residency doesn't seem to be a particularly pernicious control measure.


1 Interestingly enough, the phrase "Anti-Family" only shows up in the title of the press release; "anti-family" doesn't show up in the body of the article, so its unclear which activists, if any, are actually leveling that charge.

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