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US Immigration Laws History


US Immigration Laws History: The US Immigration Laws History provides a timeline, facts and information on this important subject.

Definition and Summary of the US Immigration Laws History
Summary and definition:
Prior to 1890, the individual states, rather than the Federal government, passed laws and regulated immigration into the United States of America. The 1875 Page Act was the first of the restrictive federal immigration laws and banned the entry of immigrants considered "undesirable". The year 1882 saw the largest number of immigrants, nearly 1 million, in American history and in response the government began to develop a national immigration policy and Congress began to pass immigration laws.

This article provides a  timeline and interesting facts about the history of US Immigration Laws. The dates of the laws and the purpose of each of the US Immigration laws are described in the history timeline.

US Immigration Laws History: Immigration Laws
Immigration to the United States into three major waves. Early immigration (1700s - 1850), Second wave (1850 - 1970) and Recent immigration (1970 - present).

US Immigration Laws were passed during each of these periods and the laws reflected the government policy of the period

Due to the massive influx of immigrants in the late 1800's Laws were passed to regulate and restrict immigration to the US.

The Ellis Island center in New York opened on January 1, 1892 where immigrants from Europe entered the United States

The Angel Island Station in San Francisco Bay opened on January 21, 1910 where immigrants from China, Japan and Asia,  entered the United States.

US History of Immigration Laws Timeline: Facts for kids
These important federal laws determine who may enter the United States, how long they can stay, their status, their rights and duties whilst they are in the United States, and how they can become resident aliens or American citizens.

1789: Under the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Congress has complete authority over immigration.

1819: The Immigration Act of 1819 provided standards for vessels bringing immigrants. Ship captains had to provide customs officials with a list of immigrants detailing the age, sex and occupation of passengers, where they came from and their destination. Passengers ill with contagious diseases had to be quarantined.

1848: Articles VIII and IX of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo granted U.S. citizenship to Mexicans living in the territory ceded by Mexico to the United States. The treaty explicitly guaranteed Mexican Americans "the right to their property, language, and culture."

1875: The Page Act was the first restrictive federal immigration law and prohibited the entry of immigrants considered "undesirable".

1882: The Chinese Exclusion Act banned the immigration of laborers from China for ten years

1882: The Immigration Act of 1882 restricted immigrants from Europe and made several categories of immigrants ineligible entry into the United States. It also imposed a 'head tax'  of 50 cents on all immigrants landing at US ports

1885: The Alien Contract Labor Law (the Foran Act) prohibited any company or individual from bringing unskilled foreigners (aliens) into the United States under contract to work for them. The only exceptions are those immigrants brought to perform domestic service and skilled workmen needed to help establish a new trade or industry in the US

1886: The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York Harbor and would become the famous landmark for all European immigrants on the last leg of their journey from Europe to Ellis Island and a new life in  America.

1890: The individual States turned over the control of immigration to the Federal Government.

1891: The 1891 Act establishes the Office of the Superintendent of Immigration within the Treasury Department imposing stringent standards of admissibility. The law bans “mentally disturbed persons, persons suffering from a ‘loathsome or contagious’ disease, paupers, persons convicted of a felony or infamous crime or misdemeanor of moral turpitude and polygamists."

1892: The Act of 1891 increased government regulation of immigration and established a
Commissioner of Immigration in the Treasury Department responsible carrying out carrying out the inspection and deportation of immigrants

1892: The first Federal immigration center was opened January 1, 1892 on Ellis Island where European immigrants were subjected to medical and legal examinations detailed in the Ellis Island Inspection Process.

1892: The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act was extended by the 1892 Geary Act

1903: Following the President McKinley Assassination in 1901 by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz, Congress enacted the Anarchist Exclusion Act, prohibiting the entry of people judged to be anarchists and political extremists.

1906: The Naturalization Act of 1906 establishes the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization in the Commerce Department to standardizes naturalization procedures. The law also requires that some knowledge of the English language is a requirement for citizenship.

1907: The Immigration Act of 1907 was part of a series of reforms aimed at further restricting the increasing number of immigrants. The Dillingham Commission was formed in response to growing political concern about the effects of immigration in the US. The subsequent Dillingham Commission report discriminated between Old and New Immigration which led to further  stringent and specific immigration restrictions.

1910: The Angel Island Immigration Station opened where immigrants from China, Japan and Asia were inspected before entry was allowed into the United States.

  • In 1910 a national system was formed specifically to regulate Asian immigration

1915: The Mexican Revolution started in 1910 and many Mexicans sought escape to America. In 1915 US Congress Authorized "Mounted Inspectors" along the US-Mexico Border

1917: The Immigration Act of 1917 (aka the Barred Zone Act) restricted immigration from Eastern Asia, except for Japan and the Philippines, by creating an "Asiatic Barred Zone". The law also introduced a reading test for all immigrants over 14 years of age

1921: The 1921 Emergency Quota Act (or percentage laws) used of quota system to establish limits and restricted the number of immigrants from a given country (3% of the number of residents from that same country living in the United States based on the 1910 U.S. Census)

1922: The Married Woman's Act, aka the Cable Act, stated that any female US Citizen who married an alien ineligible for citizenship would then lose her own citizenship

1924: The Border Patrol was established to combat smuggling and illegal immigration. Border stations are established to formally admit Mexican workers - see Mexican Immigration

1924: The National Origins Act of 1924, part of the Immigration Act of 1924, or Johnson-Reed Act, restricted the number of immigrants from a given country to 2% of the number of residents from that same country living in the United States - the 'Golden Door' to America was shut. 87% of permits go to immigrants from Britain, Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia

1930: Congress passed an act providing for the admission of women who were married to US citizens before 1924.

1934: The Tydings-McDuffie Act provided for Philippine independence, and changed the status of Filipinos from American citizens to aliens

1940: The outbreak of WW2 led to the Alien Registration Act that required the registration and fingerprinting of all aliens in the United States over the age of 14 years old. Another objective of the laws was to undermine the American Communist Party.

1943: The Magnusan Act repealed the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act

1943: The Bracero Program brought 5,000,000 temporary Mexican Laborers to Work in US farms and railroads in a 22-Year period to help the economy during and after WW2

1945: The War Brides and Fiancées Acts were laws that allowed an estimated 1,000,000 American Soldiers to bring their foreign spouses to America.

1948: The Displaced Persons Act allowed people uprooted by WW2 to immigrate to United States.

1952: The McCarran-Walter bill reorganized the structure of immigration laws.

1965: The Hart-Celler Act abolished nation-of-origin restrictions.

1975: The Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act. These laws allowed Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians recruited by the US in the war against communism were admitted to the US as displaced citizens

1980: The Refugee Act of 1980 allowed persecuted Individuals to seek asylum in the United States

1986: The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) granted Legal Status to qualifying Immigrants who entered the US illegally before January 1, 1982

1987: The Amerasian Homecoming Act allowed children of U.S. servicemen and Vietnamese women Children to immigrate to the United States

1990: The Immigration Act of 1990 revised all grounds for exclusion and deportation and increased the limits on legal immigration to the United States

1996: Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act tightens immigration to protect against terrorism following the attacks on Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center

2002: The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act were laws passed following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, representing the most comprehensive immigration-related response to the continuing terrorist threat America

2005: The REAL ID Act Expanded Laws for Asylum and Deportation of Foreigners for Terrorist Activity

2006: The Secure Fence Act authorized fencing along the US-Mexican Border and authorized the use of surveillance technology

2013: Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act provided for a temporary visa for undocumented immigrants who are the victims of domestic abuse

US American History
1881-1913: Maturation Era

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