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Fifty Years of the Immigration and Nationality Act: Guest Post by Nalini Iyer and Amy Bhatt

January 7, 2015

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (also referred to as the Hart-Cellar Act). This landmark legislation was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and abolished country based quotas as the basis for immigration. It prioritized instead skills and family reunification, opening the doors to new waves of immigrants from Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world that had been previously restricted. In this guest post, Nalini Iyer and Amy Bhatt, authors of Roots and Reflections: South Asians in the Pacific Northwest reflect on that change and preview some of the celebrations and commemorations that will take place in the coming year.

Fifty years ago, the Immigration and Nationality Act was a major source of contention in Congress as many feared that too many foreigners would change the fabric of the American nation and create too much competition for jobs. As a way to assuage these fears, several prominent politicians of the day (including Robert Kennedy) predicted that there would be minimal impact on immigration from the Asia Pacific triangle and suggested that we might see about 5,000 immigrants from the region in the first year and not much after that.

However, the legislators of the time were way off the mark in their demographic predictions. After the bill was passed, the numbers of immigrations from South Asia rose immensely. Between 1961-1970, India only sent 31,200 immigrants to the United States and Pakistan sent 4,900, but through the 1970s, the numbers increased to 176,800 immigrants from India and 157,000 from Pakistan/Bangladesh. By the 2000s, 157,000 Pakistanis and 106,700 Bangladeshis arrived and between 2001 and 2010, 662,500 Indians acquired legal permanent resident status[1]. Without a doubt, the Immigration and Nationality Act and the waves of immigration from South Asia that followed, have transformed the racial, economic, social, and political fabric of this country….Read the full post here:


UW Libraries Book Launch


Photo credit: © 2013 Carina A. del Rosario

On March 1, 2013, Nalini and I had the pleasure of launching Roots and Reflections at a fabulous event hosted by the University of Washington Libraries and the University of Washington Press. We did a reading from the book and the Libraries honored each of the narrators who participated in the South Asian Oral History Project with a copy of the book. Over 100 people attended the event!



May Events: Aaina Festival


(R-L) Sonora Jha, Amy Bhatt, and Shahana Dattagupta at the Aaina South Asian Women’s Focus Book Reading, May 12, 2013. Photo credit: Dinesh Korde (StudioDisha)

In May, I had the chance to participate in a book reading with local authors Sonora Jha and Shahana Dattagupta as part of the Aaina: South Asian Women’s Focus sponsored by Tasveer and hosted at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. We had a great turn-out and the authors dialogued around the themes of story-telling, creative and material history, and the move between various mediums of authorship.

April Events: Association of Asian American Studies, University of Washington Presentations

Spring semester is over and the Baltimore summer is quickly heating up. It’s been a busy few months–in April, Nalini and I gave a talk on Roots and Reflections at the University of Washington South Asia Center. During the same trip to Seattle, I organized a panel for the Association of Asian American Studies entitled “Contestations and Collaborations: Creating Asian American Archives and the Challenges of Representation” with Samip Mallick from the South Asian American Digital Archive, Neena Makhija from the Sindhi Voices Project, and Theo Gonzalves, professor of American Studies at UMBC.  My paper, “From Observer to Insider to Observer: The Challenges and Possibilities of Community Based Research” explored the issues that arise when representing community histories and working with institutional and community partners who are invested in retaining historical narratives of South Asian success.

I also gave a workshop for the University of Washington Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies Department titled: “What’s Next: Moving Beyond Graduate School with Your Feminist Studies PhD.”