The idea was to restrict the number of Southern and Eastern European immigrants and to ban almost all immigrants from Asia.
We don't have any such motives today. We need all the high-skill people we can get, from whatever countries.
There's also reason to question the family reunification provisions for adult siblings and other collateral relatives. They're responsible for high levels of low-skill immigration, which may not make sense in a slow-growth economy.
Family reunification provisions had their origins in the 1924 legislation. They were put there to assuage Southern and Eastern European immigrants who had become citizens.
There are constituencies for them today. But there's also a strong argument that we need to tilt our immigration system toward a greater high-skill intake.
That's the approach taken by Canada and Australia, our Anglosphere cousins, to their great advantage. They have instituted systems that make decisions not according to the source but to the skills of the would-be immigrant.
Given all this, it doesn't seem unreasonable for the judiciary committees in both houses to spend more than a week on hearings after the unveiling of legislative language.
Some advocates of comprehensive immigration legislation view extended hearings and debate as a tactic intended to stir up opposition among people they regard as bigoted.
But it's not necessarily bigoted to oppose a bill that includes some element of forgiveness for those who have broken the law. It's a legitimate view that deserves a hearing and a chance to prevail.
As one who has favored legislation with an element of forgiveness, I think it's less important to get an immigration bill through than it is to get immigration right.
Our current immigration laws have not been serving us well, and not in just one respect.
I understand the desire of politicians to push something through while the time seems opportune. But it's worth taking extra care with a law that could shape the nation for years to come.