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Immigration History

The Emergency Quota Act

The Emergency Quota Act

The most important legislation from the early twentieth century came in 1921. Referred to as the 1921 Quota Act, this legislation utilized immigration statistics to determine a maximum number of immigrants allowed to enter the United States from each nation or region. The numbers were skewed to favor immigration from western European nations while severely curbing immigration from areas perceived to be undesirable.
These immigration quotas would change over the years, but would put a lid on fair immigration policy until the 1960’s. Immigration statistics show the effects of these immigration quotas on the foundational cultural make-up of the nation. Only since the 1960’s did American immigration reflect a global consideration that transcended preconceived notions and stereotypes.
The new immigration quotas utilized immigration statistics from the census of 1910 to determine the eligibility of immigrants coming from certain regions. Theoretically, this would allows a fixed flow of immigrants, however, immigration statistics show that this turned out to be overtly prejudice. The new legislation utilized a national origins formula that took the number of foreign-born immigrants that lived in the US in 1910 and would then allow three percent of each demographic to enter the country.
Due to the immigration statistics at this time, this program favored immigration that came mostly from Western and Northern Europe. The immigration quotas established that around three-hundred and fifty thousand immigrants would be permitted access to the United States. Some groups and individuals were exempted from the immigration quotas, and these included; people that lived in any country of the Western hemisphere for one year prior to petition, non-immigrant aliens that were in the country for pleasure or business, and those that were determined to be part of a learned occupation.
The one stipulation, in which the immigration quotas that allowed for individuals to live in a Western-hemisphere nation for one year and then apply for immigration outside of the quotas, presented specific problems. Quickly after the 1921 emergency quota act was passed, the legislature passed another measure to change the one year minimum to a five year minimum to bar those trying to bypass the immigration emergency quota act.
Some criticize the way in which the nation would allow and continues to allow learned people, or those of a particular talent-set, to access the country without much problem. The education requirement automatically blocks those that would likely benefit the most from immigrating to America.
The immigration quotas of 1921 started a long line of legislation that attempted to block certain types of immigration. Immigration statistics display the detrimental effect these quotas had on specific ethnic groups.

Immigration Act of 1924

Immigration Act of 1924

Following the Quota Act of 1921 that established a system of national origin statistics, the legislature followed up with the immigration law of 1924, also referred to as the Johnson-Reed Act. This was the first permanent immigration law that instituted and created much of the national origin system, as well as shaped immigration policy, until the legislature opened up the process in the 1960’s; it also defined many important terms for United States immigration, among them were the inherent different between an immigrant and non-immigrant.
The first important nuance in the Immigration Act of 1924 was the establishment of a future immigration policy. It called for a two-tiered system that would limit immigration drastically in the short-term. Whereas the original quota system specified that they would utilize during the 1910 census, the 1924 immigration law stretched further back to 1890 continuing to utilize national origin; it also changed the previous three percent allowance to two percent, which effectively limited immigration to just over one-hundred and fifty thousand individuals.
This first portion was to be in effect until 1927 when the second part of the legislation would kick-in and change the quotas from based on the 1890 census to the amount of foreign-born citizens in the country in 1920. The second portion would not only be based on a national origin system, but would also be pushed back and eventually come into effect in 1929. 
Also important, was the newly-established legal definition of an immigrant versus a non-immigrant. It stated that anyone not entering the country as an immigrant would be effectually a non-immigrant. The non-immigrant classification would be further broken-down into classes of acceptable entry. It also called for the consular control system that stated that no non-immigrant would be granted access to the nation without a proper visa.
Many scholars point to underlying philosophies of the time that likely caused such a piece of legislation. The belief of Eugenics appears in several scholarly viewpoints on the Immigration Act of 1924. Assuming that Caucasians, essentially of North and West European descent, were preferred immigrants; the national origin quotas attempted to maintain the racial make-up of the country. Eugenics placed a maxim on this ethnic-based policy and established clear-cut racist tendencies on the institution of American immigration.
This racially-tinged policy would remain at the forefront of legislation until the middle of the 1960’s. This national origin system could have feasibly worked if it was based more on neutral numbers such as the amount of applicants, but as treated, it presented a complex history of racism and inherent prejudice.

A Guide to Immigration Legislation History of America

A Guide to Immigration Legislation History of America

Prior to World War II, the American nation strictly followed previous quota laws with little indication to extraneous situations. One example of the predilection towards quotas regardless of international pressure, came in the 1930’s when American policy-makers refused to address the number of refugees fleeing from a Nazi-controlled Germany. Many prominent members of the Jewish religion, in addition to modern historians and scholars, continue to criticize this blatant disregard for the importance of human life.
Following the destruction of World War II, the need for actual refugee law became unavoidable. The conditions in Europe and around the world illustrated a social and political imperative for America to assist in this ever-growing refugee effort. Even though America came to pass the displaced persons acts of 1948 and 1950, the nation was still late to address the burgeoning need for rapid assistance due to the rebuilding efforts of a war-torn world. Upon passage, there remained much to be desired in terms of refugee policy and this would be addressed thoroughly in subsequent years.


Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952

Some pieces of legislation that directly concern themselves with American immigration law have been altogether nullified by revisions to domestic immigration policy, and in some cases, rightfully so. The Naturalization Act of 1790, which basically set the proverbial bar for immigration and naturalization in this country, could not have survived untouched up to today by restricting rights of citizenship to whites, as it is so overtly discriminatory to non-European immigrant groups and immigration to America nowadays is dominated by emigrations from the Americas and Asia. Other legislative measures, though still colored by anti-immigration sentiments expressed toward specific populations, nonetheless has more resonance in this day and age.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, or McCarran-Walter Act, did have its notable drawbacks and detractors, based on its retention of national origins quotas that came to pass with immigration acts of the 1920’s, even when European civilians were applying for refuge in large numbers following World War II.
Still, it was at least a partial influence on the current preference-based system of accepting visa/green card applications in its three-part immigration classification scheme. Restrictions on race and gender were also lifted, ending the decades of repression levied upon Chinese immigrants and other Asian immigrant groups.
Furthermore, the five-year wait for permanent residents to naturalize was also ironed out with the McCarran-Walter Act. While the amendments of the 1960’s made the Act more reminiscent of current statutes, the 1952 INA is still regarded as the bedrock of American immigration law. 

Refugee-Escapee Act of 1957 & 1960 Fair Share Refugee Act
The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the status of refugees set the international standard for the induction of refugees into a country’s populace. The domestic standard for refugees, at least in terms of a legal distinction and yearly ceiling, was established as a result of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which as noted elsewhere, was hotly contested for its adherence to nationality-based quotas associated with keeping southern and eastern Europeans out of the country in spite of the notion they posed no apparent threat to America.
The Refugee Relief Act of 1953, passed by the United States congress, would partially assuage the needs of refugees from civil unrest/international conflict in Israel and Palestine as well as the ever-increasing issue of those inhabitants of Soviet republics fleeing the shackles of Communism.
With the outpouring of political refugees from Hungary after the brief rise and fall of the spontaneous Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the need to modify American immigration policy on more inclusive terms was evident.
The Hungarian freedom fighters’ very public struggle against Communism and the Soviets’ perceived insensitivity about handling the situation after the Revolution were obviously a source of inspiration to later internal anti-Soviet reform movements as well as numerous factions within America (e.g. disenfranchised African-Americans). The U.S. federal government was clearly inspired too, as it passed two refugee acts in the next few years that allowed for refugee admissions on the basis of executive parole.
The Refugee-Escapee Act of 1957 was a non-quota conduit for escapees from Communist territories, and the Fair Share Act of 1960 further addressed the refugee numbers of Hungary and those still living in DP camps after World War II.


Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965
While the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, a.k.a. the McCarran-Walter Act based on its primary sponsors was by no means a step backwards for the United States a whole, it did fall short of the expectations of many (notably President Truman, who vetoed it) in that it held onto the national origins quotas first provided for in 1920’s-era legislation. By virtue of the amendments made to domestic immigration policy in the 1960’s, America did take leaps and bounds forward for bringing itself closer to its self-identification as a promoter of universal rights and equality of all men.
Most significant of all these changes was the very abolition of national origins ceilings based on fractions of the entire pool of permanent residents in the United States. In their stead arose impositions of annual 20,000-person maximums for applicants from the United States from individual nations, which were still very much improvements on the setup of their predecessors. 
Yet the effects of the 1965 INA were felt far beyond modifications made to immigration based on absolute numbers. In fact, some of the biggest influxes of immigrant groups came as a result of the removal of numerical limits on certain classes of prospective immigrants, notably those unmarried children of immigrants and other immediate relatives and others who possess some “exceptional ability” of certain use to the American workforce.
At the same time, Ted Kennedy and other supporters of these revisions (before they were passed into law) maintained that the new policies would not radically alter the face of the country, and to some extent, the verbiage of the Hart-Celler Act reflected this; the law specified that alien workers should not take the opportunities of American applicants.
Just the same, the freedom of foreign relatives from quota constraints via the insistence of said policymakers on the preservation of family would dramatically shape shifts in immigration trends to America. Latin American, Asian and African presences in the United States skyrocketed in the wake of the 1960’s version of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and it was only legislation like this that made watershed events such as Barack Obama becoming the first African-American president of the U.S. possible.


Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1981
Essentially, the 1981 amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 took the optimism and free-wheeling spirit of opening the doors to the United States of America wider and focused them in a more practical way, hammering down some of the specifics that were realistically neglected by the Hart-Celler Act and even that of the 1952 version of the legislation.
Perhaps most crucially, the provisions of the 1981 INA addressed abuses of the system that are inherent in America’s approach to allowing migrants to become part of the overall U.S. population, paying greater attention to the details of deportation and the smuggling of illegal immigrants to the country (the federal government was even afforded privileges to seize vehicles of permanent residents with probable cause to suspect their use in facilitating unlawful entry).
As one might expect, there were other facets of the 1981 INA amendments that did not involve the trappings of deportation law. Among these revisions were the elimination of a policy that required foreign residents to reassert the details of their residence, changes made to re-entry visa parameters and new paths to temporary residency for students and physicians alike.
Nonetheless, the 1981’s most lasting applications to American immigration policy would seem to favor the issue of deportation. Much in the way prior U.N. resolutions defined refugees on the basis of their country of origin, the INA amendments declared of deportees that 1) they should be returned to their country of origin/country of last residence, 2) if the country will not accept them, that the Attorney General should process their case, and 3) that the cost of any fines related to their removal be handled by a district customs director.
While these invocations of deportation law were arguably minor at the time, they did serve to re-address concerns previously left to the turn of the 19th century, and would come to have larger application to the growing issue of illegal immigration in subsequent decades.

American Immigration History by Generation

American Immigration History by Generation

The history of American immigration as perceived in modern times did not begin until the middle of the nineteenth century. Prior to this time, subsequent to the American Revolution, nearly one-hundred percent of the nation’s populace were immigrants from other nations.
Immigration policy between 1940 and 1960 became shaped by the results of World War II. First, the War Brides Act allowed for military wives that were foreign born to immigrate to the country. In addition, American policy reflected the mounting problems presented by a large constituency of displaced persons.
The American Immigration History 1960-1980The Immigration and Nationality Actsouth-east Asian immigrantscreated further global representation in the frameworks of the American culture. In addition to the Civil Rights Movement that finally rid the nation of aggravated segregation, an ever-growing Chicano movement fought for Latin American immigrant rights.
Immigration totals continued to increase from Asian and Latin countries throughout the late twentieth century. Although European-based Americans still maintained the majority of American citizens, the minorities began rounding out and mirroring a more globalized world. After national quotas were removed, the American focus took to the process of illegal immigration.
Statistics show that a continuously larger number of illegal immigrants were entering the United States through Mexico. The majority of these immigrants came as a result of a networking effect that sent family members of past illegal immigrants over the American border. Understanding the need to address the concern of illegal immigration before it spiraled out of control, the federal legislature passed the Immigration Reform and Council Act.
On paper, the legislative initiative appeared comprehensive but failed to implement ways in which to combat future increases in illegal immigration. Immigration history disproved the efficiency of the legislation as illegal immigration multiplied at a frightening rate throughout the nineties. The continued inability to address the issues surrounding illegal immigration displays the inherent difficulties concerning immigration.

American Immigration Overview

American Immigration Overview

The history of immigration to the American continent surpasses the length of the United States as a sovereign nation. Each generation witnessed specific trends of immigration from varying counties of origin. This cyclical fashion would result in the federal government reacting to the varying trends with legislative initiatives that ranged from downright racism to high-minded altruism.
Although legislators, presidents, and the general populace often attempted to maintain the social make-up of the United States, the influx of immigrants from all over the world would come to create the multi-cultural country that grew with every decade.
American Immigration History by Ethnicity
European nations would come to colonize the United States in a rapid fashion after the initial discovery of the continent. Even though Native-Americans inhabited much of the mainland continent, the colonizing powers wiped out much of the native population. Due to this tragic and barbaric reality, the foundation of the American culture would stem from these original European settlers. As it turned out, different regions of the Eastern coast of North America laid claim to different European ethnicities and religions.
Still, the vast majority of these original colonizers were white protestant males that came for a varying degree of religious and cultural freedoms. In full, many of these smaller subsections of European cultures inhabiting the East coast maintained economic and political ties with their European nations of origin.
Most parts of the civilized world began citing the recognizable evils of slavery. With that said, the American continent was built on slavery. As European nations started tapering back the role of slaves in most cities, the soon to be United States of America witnessed drastic increases in the slave population all the way up until the Civil War. Based on this fact, the African-American population comprised a large percentage of the American populace.
Beyond the European colonization efforts, the American Revolution would come to pave the way for a more expansive role in global immigration to the United States. After the middle part of the eighteenth century, the majority of Americans still claimed British ancestry, but growing trends of Irish and German immigration began expanding the cultural roots of America.
Leading towards the nineteenth century, the growing industrial revolution attracted hopeful laborers looking for economic prosperity. Stagnant wages and a perpetual European working class caused further increases in the aforementioned immigration trends and also attracted high numbers of Italian immigrants.
In addition, the California gold rush and construction of the transcontinental railroad encouraged Asian migration, predominately from China. The cyclical economy caused a backlash against Chinese laborers and would result in overtly racist legislation that ended certain immigration trends for nearly a century.
Japanese immigration continued for a short while, but as racist sentiments began to exacerbate throughout the country, nearly all immigration from Asian countries would cease. Once the immigration process opened after World War II, Asian and Latin immigration would begin to change the face of America yet again.


American Immigration History by Generation
American immigration history became shaped by each specific generation and their reactions to certain trends. Prior to the victorious American Revolution, the idea of immigration escaped any actual consideration. For those who wished to embark on the long and treacherous journey across the Atlantic, there were opportunities in the new world that were simply inconceivable in the overly-populated European cities. In addition, a strict aristocracy disallowed upward mobility whereas an immigrant to North America could not only own land, but build a business and acquire actual economic security.
Political instability and the warring European superpowers resulted in low immigration trends for the young country. Just after the War of 1812, over ninety-five percent of the country was native born, clearly an odd statistic for a country formed entirely by immigrants and that just gained its sovereignty a mere two decades earlier.
For the large part, the American project in democracy was seen around the world as an unfeasible dream that would fade out quickly. As a three-branch democratic republic that practiced a system of checks and balances with no true fixture of central power, America’s government was truly the first of its kind for nearly two millenniums.
As such, this would be an unattractive choice for immigrants until the nation embodies some type of stability. Once the industrial revolution took off and the economic system was created, this sentiment reversed entirely. Between the middle of the nineteenth century and the turn of the twentieth, the American cultural make-up underwent seismic changes.
Many Americans resisted these changes due to new immigration trends, and the late nineteenth century and early twentieth unleashed a series of immigration policies rooted in prejudice and stereotype. During the Progressive Era, overarching changes and a new focus on domestic betterment would again cause the institution of immigration to change.
As southern plantations began to cede large swaths of their population to northern cities and once the great migration was underway, new social theories and sciences added another level of interpretation to policies dealing with immigration. Overarching global and domestic concerns–the Great Depression, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War–each chartered new courses for American immigration.
Not until the revolutionary nineteen-sixties would the system of immigration open up from quota laws enacted in the early twenties. After this point, increased immigration from Asian and Latin countries would define immigration from the nineteen-seventies till the present.
The most recent concerns and central focus of immigration policy became the lack of a comprehensive immigration bill that would finally deal with the trends of illegal immigration that becomes a more increasingly dangerous with every passing year.