Perhaps no other American leader in the 20th Century was as committed to a legal immigration system that was in the national interest of the United States as civil rights leader Barbara Jordan.
After leaving office as the first African-American woman elected to the House of Representatives from the South, Jordan was appointed by then-President Bill Clinton to chair the Commission on Immigration Reform in 1993. That commission would soon become known as the “Jordan Commission,” as it was one of Jordan’s last quests for American justice.
From then until her death in 1996, Jordan would become not only known as a civil rights icon, but also as one of the few Democratic politicians that believed in a pro-American legal immigration system that ceased on inundating working-class neighborhoods with low-skilled immigrants.
Fast-forward to President Donald Trump’s administration and it is not difficult to find the influences of the Jordan Commission in the latest battle by the current populist-nationalist movement to enact a merit-based immigration system that aids U.S. workers, rather than corporate and political interests.
The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) is one of the few immigration overhaul plans that would carry the torch forward for Jordan’s immigration legacy.
“Immigration imposes mutual obligations,” Jordan wrote in a piece for the New York Times in 1995, titled ‘The Americanization Ideal.”
"The Commission sees no justification for the continued entry of unskilled foreign workers unless the rationale for their admission otherwise serves a significant national interest, as does the admission of nuclear family members and refugees,” Jordan said.