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

BHAROOThis 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.”

Book Available & Upcoming Readings

Roots and Reflections is officially available through the University of Washington Press,, and many other retailers! Please order a copy today and encourage your colleagues and libraries to add it to their collections.

We have gotten some great press coverage about the book-check out the “Book” page for more details.

In March, we will kick off the publication of the book with book readings in Seattle. On Saturday, March 2nd, Nalini and I will do a reading at Elliott Bay Books in Capital Hill at 5:00pm and on Monday, March 4th, we will be at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park at 7:00pm. Hope to see you there!

Roots and Reflections: Ready for Pre-Order

Great news! My co-authored book with Nalini Iyer is ready for purchase through the University of Washington Press.

You can watch a trailer about the book here: Roots and Reflections: South Asians in the Pacific Northwest

Roots and Reflections: South Asians in the Pacific Northwest


Immigrants from South Asia first began settling in Washington and Oregon in the nineteenth century, but because of restrictions placed on Asian immigration to the United States in the early twentieth century, the vast majority have come to the region since World War II. Roots and Reflections uses oral history to show how South Asian immigrant experiences were shaped by the region and how they differed over time and across generations. It includes the stories of immigrants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka who arrived from the end of World War II through the 1980s.

Personal stories combine with historical, media, and popular culture accounts to illuminate themes of departure and arrival, gender relations, education, work, marriage, parenting, ties with the home country, and community building. By exploring the local Pacific Northwest dimension of a global immigrant phenomena, this important study deconstructs stereotypes and cultural assumptions made by non-South Asians and South Asians alike.

Amy Bhatt is assistant professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. Nalini Iyer is professor of English at Seattle University.