INDIA ABROAD February 24, 2017 14 SPECIAL REPORT
ifty years ago on
October 3, 1965,
President Lyndon B.
Johnson signed the
Nationality Act into law.
He and a number of the nation’s
leading lawmakers traveled to
Liberty Island and the base of the
Statue of Liberty to make it official.
The 1965 Immigration Act
remains the foundation of U.S.
immigration law and represents
the last time that the U.S. passed
reform. It has transformed every
aspect of American society.
But Asian Americans, especially Indian Americans1, have been
particularly affected by this landmark act.
South Asians [like Mirrha
Catarina de San Juan, previously
profiled in Tides] traveled to the
colonial New Spain (Mexico) as
early as the 1500s and began to
arrive in the United States as
early as 1820. Although their
numbers were small, as historian
Vivek Bald has shown, there
were South Asian communities
scattered across the United
States by the early 20th century.
Mass migration to Canada in the
early 1900s led to a southward
movement to the United States.
South Asians, mostly Punjabi
Sikh male laborers, worked in the
lumber mills, railroads, and
farms up and down the Pacific
Coasts of Canada and the United
States. They joined other immi-
grants from China, Japan, and
Korea, and like these groups,
were targeted by anti-Asian
xenophobes who were convinced
President Lyndon B. Johnson sits at his desk on
Liberty Island in New York Harbor as he signs a
new immigration bill on Oct. 3, 1965.
Once barred, Indian Americans
now constitute the
second-largest immigrant group
Liberty Island to sign
the Immigration Act
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