In a short documentary produced by KCTS, the PBS affiliate in Seattle, examining the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act and its impact on the Pacific Northwest and the rest of the country’s population, Amy Bhatt described the economic environment that early immigrants in the Northwest encountered.
“The Pacific Northwest has a very unique place in American history, because it did offer many of these early South Asians a way to both situate themselves and become economically productive very early on,” Bhatt said in the documentary. “Now, this was also a period in time when we saw a lot of restriction of immigration from Asia.”
Bhatt, an assistant professor of gender and women’s studies, also described the aftermath of the Immigration Act in the documentary: “There was a great deal of opposition to this act in 1965, and, in fact, when it was passed, Lyndon B. Johnson, in a very famous speech, says that this is a moment that we’re opening the doors but it’s not going to fundamentally change the fabric of American society. We know now that that was pretty radically wrong, and instead what we see is that the United States fundamentally does change as a result of this.”
Bhatt is author of Roots and Reflections: South Asians in the Pacific Northwest. Read more about her work on the gender and women’s studies website.