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United States Immigration Policy Review

1426 words - 6 pages

Historical Background: Colonial America and The United States that followed were created by repeated waves of immigration. Those immigrants came from every part of the globe, but particularly from England, France, Germany, and Western Europe. The descendants of this first wave of immigrants would view later immigrants from Italy, Poland, and Russia with a great deal of suspicion and uncertainty. This is not surprising as our country’s uncertainty about immigrants is reflected in our policies. For instance, there were no numerical restrictions or central regulation on immigration until one hundred years after our nation’s founding. When they were finally introduced they were created with bias against would be immigrants from certain countries. Among the first on that list were Chinese laborers followed by immigrants from the Asian Pacific (Ewing, 2012). These restrictions were first adopted in 1921, and were in favor of European immigrants. They would later be followed by national quotas that placed restrictions on immigrants based on existing proportions of the population. A shortage in laborers brought on by World War II would result in lifting those restrictions. This eventually led to a growth in immigration and a change in the origin of those arriving from Europe to Latin America and Asia. As the number immigrants from these countries began to grow, so did the concern about the number of them who were illegal (Ewing, 2012). Resulting policies issued to address those concerns would arguably lead to a resurgence of the problem that they were intended to correct.

Open Door Policy: Throughout the colonial era, there was no centralized regulation of immigration to North America. Relaxed immigration policies brought tens of millions from Europe between 1821 and 1924. Only a small percentage of those arriving were not allowed to enter, usually due to public health reasons or concerns that they would be a burden to the public. Free whites who were thought to have a good moral character were eligible for citizenship after only two years of residency. Among European immigrants who were not allowed to enter were criminals, prostitutes and the mentally ill (The Ellis Island Foundation, 2010).

First Exclusions: The first act of the federal government to exclude particular classes of immigrants was passed in 1875. It targeted criminals, prostitutes, and Chinese laborers who worked under conditions that were near slavelike. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was even more extensive and suspended the immigration of all Chinese workers. It also barred Chinese immigrants from becoming U.S. citizens, and made provisions to deport those who were illegally here. A separate act in 1882 expanded the list of those considered undesirable to include the mentally ill and those most likely to become a public charge. The Chinese Exclusion Act was renewed in 1892, and again in 1902. Over the following years immigration laws would be influenced by increased...

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