Filipino Migration to the U.S.

Filipino Migrants as a Result of the
Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965

With the end of organized Filipino labor importation, the increase in the number of Filipinos migrating to the U.S. in the 1950s was as a result of petitioned spouses and children. But the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 allowed for a new and different wave of Filipino migration. The law allowed for a "dual chain" system of immigration consisting of the "relative-selective" and "occupational" migration. Under "relative-selective immigration," Filipinos came as petitioned relatives of previous migrants who have become U.S. citizens.

On the other hand, the "occupational immigration" clause in the 1965 immigration law was in response to the need for more professionals, specifically in the medical field, in the U.S. Thousands of Filipino professionals, mostly doctors and nurses, arrived in the U.S. as complete families, i.e. with their spouses and children. Most of them ended up in the east coast, thus creating an occupational distinction between Filipino communities in the east coast and in the west coast including Hawaii.

As a result of this dual chain of immigration, the number of Filipinos in the U.S. multiplied manifold. Steffi San Buenaventura claims that in 1970 there were 343,060 Filipinos in the U.S; in 1980, it rose to 782,895; and in 1990, it was 1,406,770. She notes that this post-1965 immigration had few links with the pre-1965 immigration experience. In the 1990s, California and Hawaii continue to host the largest number of Filipinos in the U.S. This is followed by Illinois, New York, and New Jersey which absorbed much of the post-1965 immigration. But, by and large, Filipinos can be found all over the fifty states of the U.S., making them the fastest growing Asian community in the U.S.

(For more information on the Immigration and Naturalization Act, check out the INS website: