History 420 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer
ing Immigration Policy and Practice


Introduction: Immigration has been one of the most powerful forces shaping the cultural, economic, and political development of the United States since the first colonists arrived in North America. Everyone who lives in the United States today who does not have Native American ancestry is a descendant of immigrants. So, it is for good reason that the US has often been called a “nation of immigrants.”  Despite what many Americans believe, the issue of immigration is NOT addressed anywhere in the Constitution, nor is the issue of naturalization - except in Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 which states "The Congress shall have Power to ... establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States." And what does this mean??

So, as we shall see over the next two days, the Constitution is silent on immigration and silent on how immigrants can become citizens. It is clear that these decisions will be left to Congress. Today, then, we will begin to explore how both the Legislative and Executive Branches have addressed these issues. Our discussion, then, must start with the big question: Why have people come to the United States over the past 400 years?

Methods Discussion: Think/Pair/Share.

Take one minute to write down what you believe to be the primary reasons that people have come to America over the past 400 years. Then, working with a partner, take five minutes to share your ideas and write down all your reasons. Be prepared to discuss them with your classmates.

Clearly, people from all over the globe have been attracted to life in the United States of America. As we can see from this interactive map of immigration to the United States - http://www.pbs.org/destinationamerica/usim_wn_flash.html - people have arrived during sevral distinct eras.

Immigration, however, has not always been popular in America. As we shall see today, beginning in the late 1700s forward, Americans have placed many restrictions on who can come to America, how long they can stay, and who can become a citizen.. This topic - immigration restriction and the laws that accompany it - is the subject of today's class.

Discussion Goals:

  1. To define key words and concepts
  2. To examine American attitudes about immigration.
  3. To understand the chronological trajectory of governmental anti-immigration policies and practices.
  4. To identify and discuss the historical patterns of governmental anti-immigration policies and practices.
  5. To help us understand the contemporary rights immigrants have in the United States.

 Goal #1: To define key words and concepts

What is immigration?  The process of moving across national boundaries or frontiers to resettle.  So, an immigrant is someone who moved from one nation to another for resettlement - either voluntary or involuntary.

What is migration?  The process of moving from one location within a nation to another location within that same nation.

What is an undocumented worker? Someone who does not have a valid visa to work in the United States. An undocumented worker can be a person who entered the U.S. illegally; who entered the U.S. as a visitor and unlawfully started working; or who had a valid visa to work which expired and was not renewed.

What drives immigration? Immigration usually occurs due to two factors - push and pull

But it is essential to understand that the primary reasons for pushing and pulling people to immigrate have always been economic.

What is the historical and contemporary conflict surrounding immigration to the U.S.?

Goal #2: To examine American attitudes about immigration

As Bill Bryson notes in his excellent book, Made in America (1994:145-46): 

"If one attitude can be said to characterize America’s regard for immigration over the past 200 years it is the belief that while immigration was unquestionably a wise ... thing in the case of one’s parents or grandparents, it really ought to stop now.  Succeeding generations of Americans have persuaded themselves that the country faced imminent social dislocation, and eventual ruin, at the hands of grasping foreign hordes pouring into its ports or across its borders."

Throughout our history, Americans have had ambivalent feelings about immigrants and immigration policy. However, in the past two decades those feelings have become highly politicized. For more than 20 years, the Pew Research Center has been asking whether immigrants in the U.S. “strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents,” or whether they “are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care.” The results from the March 2016 poll show the following:

These facts and figures provide some useful background for the next part of our discussion - the growth of anti-immigrant federal policies and practices.

Goal #3 : To understand the chronological trajectory of FEDERAL anti-immigration policies and practices

During the first several hundred years of immigration to the so-called “New World,” the flow of newcomers remained largely unfettered by governmental regulation.

Despite the fact that there was little governmental regulation of immigration, within just 10 years after the Constitution became the law of the land, two restrictions were placed on which immigrants would be eligible for citizenship:

From the very beginning, then, our immigration laws have attempted to keep out non-white people and those persons whose national affiliation and politics may not be in keeping with our own. Non-white persons were ONLY allowed legal entry when they could supply labor needs that the white population was unable to provide. And, as we shall see, when American society was plagued by general economic/job related fears, uncertainty about the future, and threats to white supremacy, anti-immigrant attitudes arose and gave voice to anti-immigration policies.

Chronology of Federal anti-immigrant legislation and policies

1790  Naturalization Act was passed as the first federal law stating who could and could NOT become a naturalized citizen. Citizenship was limited to "aliens" who were "free white persons" and of "good moral character." The law required a two-year period of residence in the US prior to naturalization and one year in the state of residence when applying for citizenship. While the law was amended many times, it was not nullified in 1952. 

1795 Naturalization Act amended the 1790 act by increasing the period of required residence and requiring those immigrants intending to naturalize to go to their local court and declare their intention at least three years prior to their formal application. In the declaration, the immigrant pledged to take an oath of allegiance to the United States, to renounce their former sovereign, and to be "attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States".

1798 Alien and Sedition Acts required an alien to file a declaration of intention to become a citizen 5 years before becoming a citizen and increased the period of residence to 14 years; gave the president unlimited power to order out of the country any alien "whom he shall judge dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States; and in case of war, allowed male enemy aliens 14 years and older to be apprehended and confined. 

1850s Anti-Catholicism was at its peak in America.  A dozen churches were burned during the middle 1850s; countless more were attacked, their crosses stolen, their alters violated, and their windows broken.  At Sidney, Ohio, and at Dorchester, Massachusetts, Catholic houses of worship were blown to pieces with gunpowder. In New York City, a mob laid siege to the prominent cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul and only the arrival of the police saved the building. 

1875 Revised Federal Statutes, Section 2169, Title XXX specified that racially, only two types of aliens - persons of white or black descent - were eligible to become American citizens.  All Asian immigrants, being neither white nor black, were classified as "aliens ineligible to citizenship."  Cartoon of Chinese Exclusion

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited entry to the U.S. of all Chinese people except teachers, students, merchants, tourists, and officials.   This was the first - and only - federal law restricting immigration based upon nationality and race.  Act was repealed in 1943. 

Immigration Act of 1882 levied a head tax of fifty cents on each immigrant and prohibited entry to "any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge". The law was designed to exclude immigrants whose undesirable conditions might prove costly to society – including convicted criminals, the poor, and the mentally ill. It also shifted the responsibility for immigration from the state governments to the federal government by authorizing the Treasury Secretary to contract with the states for enforcement of the 1882 law. 

1891 Immigration Act of 1891 updated the 1882 Immigration Act to deny entry to those with a "dangerous contagious disease" or were polygamists.The Act also created the Office of Immigration under the Treasury Department which allowed the Federal Government to assume the task of enforcing immigration law and inspect, admit, reject, and process all immigrants seeking admission to the United States. The Office of Immigration's first task was to collect passenger lists from each incoming ship, a responsibility of the Customs Service since 1820. 

1892 Ellis Island opened as the Office of Immigration's first attempt to implement national immigration policy. It served as the nation's principal federal immigration station until its closure in 1954. More than 12 million immigrants were processed through the station which spread over 3 connected islands with numerous structures including a hospital and contagious disease wards. It is estimated that over 40% of all citizens can trace their ancestry to those who came through Ellis Island. About 2%, or 250,000, people who came to America were turned away at Ellis Island. Ellis Island print

1894 Immigration Restriction League organized by a young Harvard graduates who wanted  the nation to decide whether they wanted their country "to be peopled by British, German and Scandinavian stock, historically free, energetic progressive, or by Slav, Latin and Asiatic races historically down-trodden, atavistic, and stagnant." League members made a distinction between the "old immigrants" of English, Irish, and German stock and the "new immigrants" from Italy and Eastern Europe. They claimed that these recently arrived "undesirables" were inherently unable to participate in self-government or to adopt American values. 

1895 Bureau of Immigration created to take over the Office of Immigration. 

1900 One of the great migratory movements began in 1900. Between 1900 and 1930 more than 1,000,000 Mexicans came into the United States from Mexico. During these two decades, Mexicans made up the greatest number of new immigrants to the United States. 

1904 The federal government deported 1800 Chinese.

1917 Immigration restriction bill expanded the legal definition of those "likely to become a public charge" to include: "all idiots, imbeciles, feebleminded persons, epileptics, insane persons…persons of constitutional psychopathic inferiority… and mentally or physically defective..." It also required that all future adult immigrants be literate in the language of the immigrant’s choice.  If the husband were literate, the wife need not be. 

1917 The first Bracero Program was an exception to 1917 Immigration Act. With "Food to Win the War" as a World War I motto, farmers and railroads persuaded the U.S. Department of Labor to suspend until 1921 the head tax and the literacy test for Mexican workers coming to the United States with contracts for up to 12 months. No Mexican worker could depart for the US without a contract signed by an immigration official specifying the rate of pay, place of employment, work schedule and other conditions. Many of these first Braceros did not return as scheduled and some U.S. employers did not pay Braceros the wages promised.

1922 Cable Act revoked the citizenship of any woman who married an Asian alien. The Act was repealed in 1936. 

1924 Immigration Act established the first national law designed to limit ALL immigration through creating quotas to reduce immigration from southern and eastern Europe (especially Jews and Italians).   The Act set an annual limit of 150,000 immigrants; forbade the admission of “aliens ineligible to citizenship” - all Asians, including wives of Asians already in the US; denied all Asians naturalization rights; and prohibited Asians from marrying a Caucasian and from owning land. Upon signing the Act, President Calvin Coolidge commented, "America must remain American." 

Naturalization Act was amended to give American Indians citizenship.

US Border Patrol was created within the Immigration Service. Under the 1924 Immigration Act, undocumented workers were fugitives. Thus, with the advent of the Border Patrol, the definition "illegal alien" was born.

1929 to 1937.  In response to the huge numbers Mexican immigrants working in American agriculture, the United States immigration Bureau worked with authorities in Los Angeles to send about one-half a million illegal Mexican workers back to Mexico.

1940 Naturalization Act was amended to give Latin Americans citizenship. 

US Census statistics showed that 11.7 million immigrants live in the US, representing 8.8% of the entire US population.

1942  The second Bracero Program began whereby Mexican contract laborers came to the U.S. with a promise to be returned to Mexico at the end of a specific term.  During the war years, braceros worked in 21 (but mainly California and Texas) states where in 1944 alone, they harvested crops worth $432 million.  Ranchers paid low wages and provided barely livable facilities.  The program ended in 1964.  

1943 Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act repealed the exclusion of Chinese immigration. Because the US allied with China during WWII, a quota of 105 per year was set for Chinese immigration (based on a formula set on one-sixth the total population of that ancestry in the 1920 census.)  Japanese were still excluded. 

The Zoot Suit Riots erupted in Los Angeles.  White mobs, including several hundred servicemen, rioted and terrorized zoot suiters for three nights, dragging them out of movies, stores, and houses, beating them, and tearing apart their clothes.  The police responded by arresting over 600 Mexican-American youths arguing that they were being taken into "preventive custody."  Later that summer, the LA city council outlawed the wearing of zoot suits.
1945 Naturalization Act amended to give citizenship to Filipinos and Asian Indians.

1952 The McCarran-Walter Immigration and Naturalization Act nullified the Naturalization Act of 1790, thus ending the racially-based naturalization ban and the 1924 ban on Asian immigration.  The Act was amended to read, "The right of a person to become a naturalized citizen...shall not be denied or abridged because of race or sex or because such person is married." 

1953 Refugee Relief Act authorized the admission of 205,000 "refugees," "escapees," and "German expellees" in "a country or area which is either Communist or Communist dominated..."  Until the end of the act in 1980, more than 2.25 million persons were admitted to the US as refugees. 

1954 Operation Wetback began with the goal of removing all "illegal aliens" from the southwestern United States, with a focus on Mexican nationals. Over one million Mexican laborers, most from the Bracero Program, were deported.   Raids were carried out by INS, local law enforcement, and armed military forces. Many American citizens of Mexican descent were deported without cause. 

1965 Immigration Reform Act  lifted numerical restrictions against Asian immigrants and set new restriction limits - 120,000 immigrants annually from the Western Hemisphere and 170,000 from other countries.   The legislation intended to liberalize immigration policy and as such, be an extension of the civil rights movement. The Act emphasized that immigration was devoted to reunifying families of American citizens.   Immigrants had to have a sponsor who in turn, had to pledge to support arriving relatives or workers. However, two major loopholes existed in the law: there was no way to legally enforce pledges of support; and the policy allowed parents, spouses, and minor children of any adult American citizen to enter the country without being subjected to numerical restrictions. Thereafter, Asian and Hispanic immigration soared. 

1978 Immigration Reform Law was amended to allow a global ceiling of 290,000 immigrants annually.  In reality, the annual numbers have been much higher. 

1980 Refugee Act amended the Immigration and Naturalization Act, which had favored those fleeing communism, by accepting the United Nations' definition of "refugee" as a person unwilling or unable to return to his or her country of origin because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinions. The 1980 Refugee Act also authorized federal funds to aid in the resettlement of refugees, thereby creating a new legal category of refugee, an "aslyee" or refugee who applied for entry into the US while already here either legally or illegally. 

1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act granted amnesty to any undocumented immigrant who entered the US before 1982 and had continuously resided here since.  Of the 3.7 million eligible for amnesty, 2.6 million accepted. For the first time, employers who hired undocumented immigrants became subject to fines and jail sentences if a pattern of hiring illegals could be found. Employers were not obligated to verify the validity of documents.  Consequently, many growers simply ignored the growing reality of counterfeit documents for the undocumented.

1990  The H-1B visa program was created as a response to claims of an impending shortage of skilled labor - especially in the growing field of technology. It allowed employers to recruit skilled workers from abroad for professional “specialty occupations.” The initial H-IB visa cap was 65,000.

1994 California’s Proposition 187 made undocumented  immigrants ineligible for three kinds of public services:  social services including mental health and rape crisis intervention; health services except for events defined as emergencies under federal law; and education at elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools.  Required employees of public agencies to report any persons they suspected of being in the US illegally to two governmental bodies.  In 1998, a federal  judge ruled that most of Proposition 187 was unconstitutional. 

1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act increased the federal government’s border enforcement efforts in part by authorizing 1,000 additional Border patrol agents each year from 1997-2001; allowing wiretaps for investigating alien smuggling operations; reducing the number of documents employers may accept as proof of work authorization; authorizing 300 additional investigators; adding new grounds for refugee status and limiting the number of such refugees to 1,000 annually; and establishing a program to monitor foreign students. 

Welfare Reform Act amendments eliminated food stamp, welfare, and supplemental security income benefits to undocumented and legal immigrants.  California chose not to exercise this for legal immigrants under an option allowed in the federal welfare reform bill.  In 1997, Congress restored supplemental security income for almost all legal immigrants and in July 1998, food stamps were restored to about 250,000 legal immigrants.
1997 Immigration Amnesty Bill gave amnesty to all Nicaraguan and Cuban immigrants.  All who applied automatically received permanent residency.

1998 The H-1B visa program increased the cap for the number of annual H-IB visas from 65,000 to 115,000 foreign workers who had training or experience in high-tech fields - especially engineering, accounting, and programming. 

2000 Legal Immigration Family Equity Act allowed undocumented immigrants married to a U.S. citizen and in the country before Dec. 21, 2000 to apply for legal permanent residency after paying a $1,000 fine. 

H-1B Visa amendments increased the number of temporary visas for foreign skilled high-tech workers from 115,000 annually to 195,000 annually for the next three years.

2001 USA Patriot Act broadened the scope of aliens ineligible for admission or deportable due to terrorist activities to include an alien who: was a representative of a political, social, or similar group whose political endorsement of terrorist acts undermined U.S. antiterrorist efforts; used a position of prominence to endorse terrorist activity, or to persuade others to support such activity; or had been associated with a terrorist organization and intended to engage in threatening activities while in the United States.

2003 US Citizenship and US immigration Services (USCIS) replaced the former US Immigration and Naturalizatioin Service (INS). The USCIS, which became part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was created to handle US immigration services and benefits, including citizenship, applications for permanent residence, non-immigrant applications, asylum, and refugee services. All US immigration enforcement functions were transferred to the Bureau of US immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

2004 Pew Hispanic Center estimated that 10.3 million unauthorized immigrants lived in the United States: 57% from Mexico, 24% from the rest of Latin America, 9% from Asia, 6% from Europe and Canada, and 4% from Africa and other nations. The majority live in eight states, with the largest percentages - living in order of highest concentration - in California, Texas, Florida, New York, Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey, and North Carolina. 

2005 Real ID Act imposed certain security, authentication and issuance procedures standards for the state driver's licenses and state ID cards, in order for them to be accepted by the federal government for "official purposes" as defined by the Secretary of Homeland Security. Currently, the Secretary of Homeland Security has defined "official purposes" as presenting state driver's licenses and ID cards for boarding commercially operated airline flights, entering federal buildings and nuclear power plants.

Minutemen Civil Defense Corp was created by a group of private individuals in the United States to monitor the United States–Mexico border's flow of illegal immigrants. Co-founded by Jim Gilchrist and Chris Simcox, the name derives from the Minutemen, militiamen who fought in the American Revolution.

Secure Fence Act allowed over 700 miles of double-reinforced fence to be built across cities and deserts between California and Texas in areas that have been prone to illegal drug trafficking and illegal immigration. It authorized the installation of more lighting, vehicle barriers, and border checkpoints, while putting in place more advanced equipment like sensors, cameras, satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles in an attempt to watch and control illegal immigration into the United States.

Operation Return to Sender began to target illegal immigrants engaged in criminal activity.  As of April 2007, 23,000 deportations had taken place. 

DACA student2011 Secure Fence Act was canceled, citing technical problems, cost overruns and schedule delays since its inception in 2005. Six years after its inception, the act had cost taxpayers almost $1 billion for two regions in Arizona, covering just 53 miles overall on the 2,000-mile border.

2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was signed by President Obama via Executive Order. Under the order, the Department of Homeland Security would no longer initiate the deportation of illegal immigrants who came to the United States before age 16, had lived here for at least five years and were in school, were high school graduates or were military veterans in good standing. The immigrants must also be under 30 and have clean criminal records. The order was designed to temporarily benefit more than 800,000 young people. Obama did not consult with Congress, where Republicans generally opposed measures to benefit undocumented immigrants.

2014 Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) was signed President Obama via Executive Order. The order was designed to ease the threat of deportation for some 4.7 million undocumented immigrants. With 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, Obama's plan allowed some 4.4 million who are parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to remain in the country temporarily, without the threat of deportation. Those undocumented residents could apply legally for jobs and join American society, but could not vote or qualify for insurance under the president's healthcare law. The measure would apply to those who have been in the United States for at least five years. An additional 270,000 people would be eligible for relief under the expansion of a 2012 move by Obama to stop deporting people brought illegally to the United States as children by their parents.

June 23, 2016 US Supreme Court deadlocked in 4-4 Vote that challenged Obama's immigration Executive Actions - DACA and DAPA. The 4-4 tie lefts in place a lower court ruling that put the Obama administration's DAPA program on hold.

January - March, 2017 - President Trump signed several Executive Orders on immigration restriction.

Political Cartoon Trump immigration

January 25 - President Trump signed the "Enhancing Public Safetyin the Interior of the United States" Executive Order. The order announced sweeping new criteria that could make many more undocumented immigrants priorities for deportation. Specifically, it targeted for deportation any undocumented immigrant convicted of, or simply charged with, a crime that had not been adjudicated, who abused public benefits, or was considered "a risk to public safety or national security... in the judgment of an immigration officer." The order also stripped sanctuary cities of federal grant funding.

January 25 - President Trump signed the “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements," Executive Order. It announced a plan that would further militarizse the U.S.-Mexico border through the construction of a contiguous wall along the nearly 2,000-mile southern border. The Order also provided additional resources to Border Patrol agents; drastically increased detention along and beyond the southern border; expanded the use of expedited removal to the entire nation while limiting the use of discretion in deciding whom to deport; and outlined enforcement changes, including authorizing more state and local officials to enforce federal immigration laws. Political Cartoon Mexico and the Wall

January 27 - President Trump signed the "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States" Executive Order. The order blocked citizens of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from obtaining visas for at least 90 days, indefinitely banned Syrian refugees from entering the U.S., and called for prioritizing the admission of refugees who were religious minorities in their home countries. That provision drew criticism of a religious test for entry and would have prioritized Christians over Muslims fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East.

Within weeks, almost 50 cases were filed in federal courts, all asking for temporary restraining orders to ban the enforcement of major parts of the executive order. The major restraining order was issued by a Washington State federal court that specifically blocked the executive branch from enforcing provisions of the executive order that suspended entry into the U.S. for people from seven countries for 90 days and placed limitations on accepting refugees including "any action that prioritizes the refugee claims of certain religious minorities." Additionally, it allowed "people from the seven countries who had been authorized to travel, along with vetted refugees from all nations, to enter the country."Trump administration appealed the TRO to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which ruled against the government and allowed the stay to stand.

March 6 - President Trump signed a new Executive Order that removed language found unconstitutional in the January 27th order. It revoked the January 27th order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, barred travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days - Iraq was not included, although Iraqis may be subject to heightened screening. The 90-day ban does not apply to six categories of people seeking entry into the U.S., including those with green cards.The order also suspended admission of refugees into the US for 120 days and directed US officials to improve vetting measures for entry of immigrants and refugees to the U.S.

A number of parties sued the administration over this travel ban, and U.S. District Courts in Hawaii and Maryland issued preliminary injunctions that blocked the ban's implementation.. The administration appealed and asked it to be heard by the Supreme Court. The main legal issues in dispute were the scope of a president's authority and whether campaign rhetoric and post-campaign statements could be used as evidence that the order was intended to discriminate against Muslims. On June 26th, the Supreme Court partially granted the government's request to stay the Maryland and Hawaii district courts' preliminary injunctions that block the 90-day entry bar and included an important exception that upheld the injunction for individuals "who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States."

August 2 - President Trump unveiled the proposed RAISE Act ("Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment") proposed by Senators Tom Cotton or Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia to limit the number of LEGAL immigrants into the U.S. The legislation intends to slash legal immigration by reducing the number of low-skilled immigrants who can receive green cards. Trump said that low-skilled immigrants have displaced American workers and depressed wages and thus, the legislation is necessary. The proposed legislation would favor green card applicants who speak English, can financially support themselves, and who can demonstrate their skills. The legislation would also eliminate the "diversity visa," eliminate certain pathways to family-based immigration, allocate a total of 50,000 visas annually to people from countries with low immigration rates to the U.S., and place an annual 50,000 cap on the number of refugee admissions. Trump claimed the legislation "...will restore the sacred bonds of trust betwen Americans and iits citizens."

Chart showing legal immigrationChart of legal immigration

Goal 4: To identify and discuss the historical patterns found in the chronology of governmental anti-immigration policies and practices

Methods Discussion - Chronological Understanding and T-Chart ActivityNow you are going to combine two methods - chronological understanding and the T-Chart Activity - by doing to following:

T Chart

Goal #5: To help us understand the contemporary rights immigrants have in the United States

The "Know Your Rights" handout from the ACLU is a very brief guide to what you should know - and what your students should know - if they are immigrants.