Have you ever wondered about how the current American immigration system came into being?  Today’s blog post is intended to give you a short history of American immigration laws.  It’s fascinating to see how these policies have evolved over time.  At BestImmigrationLawyer.com, we think you’ll find it quite interesting to learn about the history of our nation’s immigration system.


Let’s start with the early days.  Back in the 18th and 19th centuries American immigration was pretty much a free-for-all.  People from all over Europe were arriving in the United States seeking new opportunities and a better life.  For the most part, there were no restrictions on who could come in to the country and immigration was seen as a way to boost the population and the workforce.  However, as the country grew and changed, so did the attitudes towards immigration.  The first major immigration law in the United States was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which was signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur.  This act was pretty much what it sounds like—it prohibited Chinese laborers from immigrating to the US for ten years.  Shamefully, this law came into being because there was a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment and prejudice during that time, fueled by fears of job competition and the belief that the Chinese were “unassimilable.”  But the Chinese Exclusion Act was just the beginning.

In the early 20th century, the nation saw the introduction of a quota system with respect to immigration.  The 1921 Emergency Quota Act and the 1924 Immigration Act put numerical limits on immigration and favored people from Western and Northern European countries.  These laws were rooted in a desire to maintain the country’s ethnic and racial makeup, and they discriminated against people from Southern and Eastern Europe, as well as other parts of the world.

Fast forward to the mid-20th century and the “Bracero Program.”  This was a series of laws and agreements between the United States and Mexico which allowed Mexican laborers to work in the US on a temporary basis.  The program began in 1942 and lasted until approximately 1964.  It played a significant role in shaping US-Mexican relations and the experiences of Mexican immigrants in the United States.  This program came about due to a labor shortage in the agricultural industry of the United States brought about by World War II.  The Bracero Program is estimated to have brought approximately 4 million person into the United States.

More big changes to the American immigration system came about in the 1960s.  In 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act was passed.  Also known as the Hart-Celler Act, this law abolished the quota system and replaced it with a preference system based upon skills and family reunification.  This was a significant milestone because the new law aimed to make the immigration process more equitable and less discriminatory.  However, it also introduced some new challenges, like long waiting times and a backlog of applications for visas.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, there were several attempts to address the growing issue of undocumented immigration.  One notable example is the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) which was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.  The law granted amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants who had been living in the US since before 1982.  It also aimed to strengthen border enforcement and penalize employers who knowingly hired undocumented workers.  Despite these efforts, undocumented immigration continued to be a contentious issue.  In the 1990s, the controversial Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) was passed during the Presidency of Bill Clinton.  This law increased penalties for immigration violations and expanded the grounds for deportation.  It also made it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status or access public benefits.

In the 21st century, immigration policies have continued to evolve.  One of the most significant changes came in 2012, when President Barack Obama introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  This policy allowed certain young undocumented immigrants, who were brought to the US as children, to apply for temporary protection from deportation and work authorization.  DACA has faced its share of challenges.  The Administration of President Donald Trump attempting to end the program in 2017.  That effort failed when the United States Supreme Court blocked an effort to dismantle DACA.

Throughout the course of American history, immigration has been an issue of major debate.  The current times are no exception.  There is not a day that goes by without some news involving immigration related issues.  Given that the majority of people in the United States are either immigrants or descended from immigrants, there is no doubt immigration will remain an issue of significant discussion in the years to come.

If you’re an immigrant or someone that knows an immigrant, at BestImmigrationLawyer.com we have the experience and knowledge to help persons facing the most significant immigration issues.  Get in touch with us today and let us help you if you’re facing an immigration issue and need legal help. Our team of lawyers and support staff have dealt with practically every type of immigration issue. We can also help you too.


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