A year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States has now begun removing some of the bricks in the legal walls constructed around our borders. An immigration policy based on Cold War and xenophobic fears is giving way to a more receptive and equitable approach that holds the promise of opening U.S. doors to persons who will add to the diversity and talents of the United States.
The Immigration Act of 1990, signed into law in November, increases by nearly 40 percent the number of persons able to immigrate to the United States annually. The number of visas based on job skills more than doubles from 54,000 per year to 140,000, while family-unity-based immigration continues to comprise well over half of the 700,000 immigration places allotted for each of the next three years.
Refugees are not included under immigration caps; numbersof refugee admissions will continue to be determined separately in annual consultations between Congress and the administration. As a result of those consultations, President Bush recently agreed to admit up to 131,000 refugees in the coming year.
The new law dismantles some of the more embarrassing provisions of the 1952 McCarren-Walter Act, a McCarthy-era relic that laid down 33 grounds for barring entry of immigrants or visitors to the United States. The law now states that immigrants cannot be barred entry based on "past, current, or expected beliefs, statements, or associations" if such beliefs and acts would be lawful in the United States.