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Thread: A history of immigration restrictions in the US

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    A history of immigration restrictions in the US

    Immigration restrictions in the US date back a long ways and the fears used to justify it also date back a long ways. It might better help us to understand the history of immigration restrictions in the US

    I might just add that the Constitution never explicitly gave Congress the power to regulate immigration, just naturalization (how people become citizens).

    Until the 1870s, there were no immigration restrictions (not that many people were looking to move there before the 1830s) but a few restrictions were placed on naturalization. The Naturalization Act of 1790 limited federal citizenship to white people who have resided in the country for two or more years. Some states did, however, naturalize free blacks at the state level. This act also excluded indentured servants, though it did grant natural citizenship to children of Americans abroad. In 1795, the two year requirement was extended to five years and in 1708 to 14 years.

    As you may all know, the 14 amendment states that anyone born in the US automatically becomes a citizen. This was meant to grant all of the freed slaves citizenship but it also opened up the possibility for children born on US soil from immigrants to automatically become citizens, confirmed in 1898 by United States v Wong Kim Ark. In 1870, citizenship was granted to "aliens of African descent and African nativity" while simultaneously revoking citizenship from the Chinese. It also criminalized fraud in the naturalization process.

    In 1875, the first immigration restriction was signed into law, putting an end to 92 years of open borders. This act was the Page Act and on paper, it banned forced labor and immigration for the purpose of prostitution. In practice, it prevented Chinese women from arriving. Chinese men would be barred from entry a decade later by the Chinese Exclusion Act. These two acts were done due to a rising sentiment against Asians, particularly Chinese. People feared that the Chinese would outbreed white people through polygamy. There was also the fact that the Chinese would work for lower wages than their white counterparts. In the late 19th century, regulation on immigration really began to ramp up. Ellis Island opened up in 1892 to deal with who to let in or not. There was also a massive growth in the immigration bureaucracy as that was required to enforce the Chinese Exclusion Act. The immigration Act of 1907 prohibited certain people from entering the US. These people included polygamists, professional beggars, those with a contagious disease, and the disabled. There was also the Immigration Act of 1917 which closed the borders to other Asian pacific countries as well as criminals, alcoholics, and anarchists.

    It was also around this time that immigration began to increase and immigration patters were shifting. In the mid 19th century, most immigrants were either from Germany or Ireland and there were also a plenty from Great Britain. By the end of the 19th century, there was an increasing amount from Italy, Austro-Hungary, and Russia. A desire to restore previous immigration patterns led to the Emergency Quota Act of 1921 which restricted the number of immigrants per year to 3% of the number from that same country already residing in the United States. A decade ago, immigration had peaked at 14-15% of the US population. In the 1930s the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was created to enforce immigration laws.

    (to be continued, the whole thing goes over the 5000 character limit)

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    Re: A history of immigration restrictions in the US

    Part 2

    During WWII, men who would otherwise be working were off fighting. This led to a labor shortage that had to be filled in by women and immigrants, mostly from Mexico. In 1942, there was an agreement between the US and Mexico called the Bracero program. In 1954, Operation Wetback was launched for the INS to deport many of these immigrants

    The percentage of immigrants reached a low of around 5% in the 1960s. This was during the civil rights movement and with racial segregation on its way out, it was starting to seem a bit racist to exclude immigrants based on nationality. With that, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 put an end to the national quotas put in place by the 1921 act, replacing it with a seven category preference system which gave priority to immigrants with skills and their relatives, though it maintained per country limits. It also limited immigration from the western hemisphere for the first time (120,000 per year). After this, immigration came to be dominated by Latin America and Asia.

    In the 1980s, the Refugee Act set to let in 50,000 refugees per year and raised the total immigration cap to 270,000 per year.

    The diversity lottery dates back to the Immigration Act of 1990 which also increased the overall annual cap to 700,000 per the first three years after the act and 675,000 afterwards.

    Following 9/11 Americans began to change their attitude on immigration (the 19 hijackers had immigrated into the US legally on work and student visas, four of which had violated the terms of their visas). The Department of Homeland Security was created in 2002 and in the following year, the INS was dissolved and its services were taken up by the Immigration Customs Service (ICE), Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) and Customs Border Protection (CBP), making immigration enforcement a job of the DHS. The Real ID Act of 2005 established federal guidelines for drivers licenses to hinder illegal immigration and terrorism. George Bush began the zero tolerance approach to illegal immigration with Operation Streamline in which the DHS would seek to deport any illegal immigrants.

    In 2012, Obama signed an executive order called DACA which provides a two year deferred action to illegal immigrants brought into the country as children which doesn't actually provide a pathway to citizenship (unlike the proposed DREAM act) but rather delays their deportation. Under Obama, unaccompanied minors would be detained and separated by gender and age while appropriate placements were found.

    When Donald Trump was running for election, one of his major promises was to crack down on illegal immigration. In April 2018, he began a policy of separating parents from their children. The conditions of where the children were being held have also been criticized with inadequate resources.

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