In the late 1970s through early 1980s, the United States was hit with arrival of 160,000 Indochinese, 20,000 Russian Jews, and 130,000 Cuban and Haitian “boat people.” Annual permanent visas other than for refugees rose from around 200,000 in the 1960s, to somewhat above 400,000 a year. About 200,000 net unauthorized migrants per year arrived in the 1970s. With the oil crisis and inflation, public concern about immigration spiked.
President Carter convened a Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy in 1979. Its final report was issued in March,1981.
The Commission recommended “Closing the back door to undocumented – illegal immigration, opening the front door a little more to accommodate legal migration in the interests of the country, defining our immigration goals clearly and providing a structure to implement them effectively, and setting forth procedures which will lead to fair and efficient adjudication and administration of U.S. immigration laws.”
Specific recommendations included:
1. Employer sanctions for hiring undocumented workers.
2.Legalization of unauthorized persons.
3.Numerical ceiling of 300,000 (plus those not subject to this ceiling).
4.“Independent immigrants” (i.e. not family reunification). The Commission agreed that “specific labor market criteria” be used. but was divided on how restrictive. No mention of attracting immigrants based on work skills.
In 1980 there were 14.1 million immigrants in the U.S. The demographer for the Commission forecasted that if net migration including illegals kept at at 500,000, the population in 2080 would be 270 million. Our total population today is about 320 million, one quarter of whom are first or second generation immigrants. As it turned out, the immigrant population rose since 1980 by an average of 800,000 – plus through 2015. The fertility rate of immigrants has been 50% higher than of the total population. Immigrants now number 43 million.