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Post-1965 Immigration from the Philippines

Dorothy Cordova

2015 is the 50th Anniversary of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act which abolished the restrictive national origins system Congress passed in 1924. Each Asian country was now allowed 20,000 immigrants each year, but the Act’s numerical limit did not affect spouses, unmarried minor children and parents of U.S. citizens.


“Family Reunification” was the cornerstone of U.S immigration policy. Pioneer families – who came as “nationals” prior to the 1935 Tydings-McDuffie Act – and  Filipinos who arrived after World War Two ( war brides, Bataan-Corregidor survivors, U.S. Navy) began to petition parents, minor children who were unmarried, and siblings.


“Professionals, scientists and artists of “exceptional ability” were the other priority for immigration.  They came for better economic opportunities. In the 1970s the large number of Filipino professionals immigrating to America caused a significant “brain drain” for the Philippines. Many never achieved professional fulfillment in America.


Immigration which began slowly in 1965 soon resulted in huge annual numbers as recent immigrants became permanent residents or U.S. citizens and were able to  petition family. For years the Philippines was second only to Mexico in annual immigration.


New arrivals came as America was undergoing political and socio-economic changes. The Civil Rights fight for equality begun by Southern African Americans in the 1950s was a national battle. Racism was a daily occurrence in America. Anti-Vietnam War protests were increasing. Many recent immigrants were against Martial Law in the Philippines. The country was experiencing an economic downturn.

Boeing recruited several hundred young Filipino engineers – then laid off most by 1971. Doctors who passed the ECFMG exam often found work – not in big cities or hospitals – but in rural areas or small hospitals. Many professionals found jobs for which they were over-qualified. School districts not prepared for so many immigrant students for whom English was a second language could not hire teachers from the Philippines who were not citizens or permanent residents.


Despite problems – immigrants who came after 1965 have found a new life in America. Some have been here almost fifty years and others continue to come in large numbers every year. Many families now have second-generation American-born children and third-generation grandchildren. Today some Post-1965 families now number in the hundreds. They now constitute the majority of Filipino Americans in this country.

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