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Chain Migration And The LA Riots — The Unspoken Link

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LA Riots: A Quick Study On The Impacts Of Hispanic Immigration And Chain Migration

The Hart-Celler Act of 1965 modified our immigration laws and opened our borders to millions of new immigrants seeking their own slice of the promise land.  At the time Senator Ted Kennedy promised the American people that “our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually. … Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset.”  This was a bold faced lie since Democrats like Kennedy insisted the immigration should be prioritized towards “family unification” over “employability.” The results of these “unification” procedures developed into the phenomenon known as “chain migration.”

Ever since Hart-Celler, Americans have been suffering and the results could not be clearer.

Take for example the difference between the 1965 Watts Riots and the 1992 Riots.  Both riots took place in LA and both were justified using an incident of police violence.  But, as for the participants and scale of damage, things couldn’t have been more different.


LA Hispanics Grew By 60% In One Decade: Between 1980 and 1990, LA saw an increase of over 1,300,000 Hispanic residents–that was a 62% jump in ten years.  As groups that once enjoyed majority status in LA neighborhoods became just one of a number of minorities, racial tensions increased according to Peter Morrison and Ira Lowry.  Morrison and Ira write that this “ethnic succession…set the stage for competition and conflict” and that by 1992, LA had become a powder keg ripe for a deadly explosion.  When the powder keg finally detonated, the results were unlike anything seen before.  And, despite the perceived wisdom, the riots were NOT a ‘black riot,’ but rather the majority of arrests were Hispanic.

Immigration “Reform” Brought The Hispanics To LA: The Hispanics that moved in were largely young, male, and immigrants from Mexico according to Morrison and Ira.  They were the product of the 1965 immigration reforms known as the Hart-Celler Act.  While Hart-Celler was being vigorously debated, then Senator Ted Kennedy told Americans that it would not change the racial or ethnic demographics of the United States.  This did not prove to be the case.

As young Hispanics moved into LA they began competing for jobs with the blacks that had been living there.  Morrison comments that the black population “may [have regarded] the incursion of Hispanics as ‘threatening,'” noting that these two populations were competing for the same political power and patronage. When riots broke out, these blacks and Hispanics ultimately targeted stores they believed were owned by whites and Koreans.  Koreans had nothing to do with the supposed cause of the riots–white cops cracking down on black residents–but tensions persisted.  Morrison comments that Korean-black relations had been strained since the killing of a black teenager at the hands of a Korean store owner in 1991.

The Rioters And Their Targets: Despite the prevailing narrative that call ’92 LA riots a product of white-black racial tensions, the reality is far more complex.  While its true that the initial spark that triggered the riots had to do with the Rodney King incident, the situation developed into something far more complex.Korean-owned stores were the primary targets for looters and the typical looter was a young male of Hispanic origin.  The clash between these two ethnic groups is incredibly important to recognize.  Pictured below are Korean-Americans protecting their store with rifles during the riots.  If this was simply about blacks being targeted by white cops, why did Hispanics join the fray and why were Koreans the prime target?

Most rioters were unemployed young males that had the ability to do so.  They were upset about their political efficacy shrinking and they weren’t keen on the economic competition.  In short, blacks were competing for the same jobs as Hispanics and both were envious of the self-employed, small-business Koreans. Rodney King was an excuse that set it off.

Brett MacDonald

Brett MacDonald

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