In This Review

One Mighty and Irresistible Tide
One Mighty and Irresistible Tide
By Jia Lynn Yang
Norton, 2020, 336 pp.

The passage in the United States of the restrictive 1924 Immigration Act seemed to settle the question of who should be admitted to the country. The United States, said one of the bill’s sponsors, “will cease to be the ‘melting pot.’” Under the new law’s strict ethnic quotas—including its total exclusion of Asians—fewer immigrants entered the country in the subsequent four decades than had arrived in the first decade of the twentieth century. But the law set up another decades-long fight, which culminated in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which abolished the restrictive quotas. President Lyndon Johnson welcomed its passage with a paean to the “nation of strangers” who had built the United States by “joining and blending in one mighty and irresisti­ble tide.” But that law too proved contentious. With quotas for Mexicans set far below the demand for their labor and visas based on family reunification rather than skills, it sparked new tensions. Immigration remains a deeply contested issue that Americans continue to struggle with today. Yang, a senior editor at The New York Times and the daughter of immigrants, tells the story of the important fight for the 1965 law with an immediacy that comes from being one of its direct beneficiaries.