From the time the first white settlers came to America, this country welcomed people from any country in the world. Many newcomers came from Ireland, Germany, Great Britain, and France because of poor harvests, famines, political conflicts, or revolutions. A new wave of immigration began in the late 1880's and people came from countries in southern and eastern Europe, such as Italy and Austria-Hungary. The number of newcomers was so large that many cities became overcrowded and jobs became scarce. This situation aroused antagonism, resentment and conflicts, and the need to establish some laws and regulations became evident. The "open-door" policy ended in 1882 when Congress passed the nation's first general immigration statute.
The first law that regulated immigration was the Oriental Exclusion Act which halted Chinese immigration. n 1917, Congress passed a second law that required an immigrant to prove that he could read and write at least one language. Physically handicapped immigrants and children under 16 did not have to meet this requirement.
After World War I, a marked increase in racism and the growth of isolationist sentiment in the U.S. led to demands for further legislation. In 1921 a congressional act provided for a Quota System for immigrants. The law was aimed especially at central and eastern European countries that had been sending untrained and underprivileged emigrants. The quota that was set allowed each country to send each year only 3 per cent of the number of persons of that nationality living in America in 1910. The Immigration Act of 1924 changed the quota to 2 percent and made 1890 the base year. The National Origins Law went into effect in 1929 and set a limit of 150,000 immigrants a year. After World War II, immigration into the United States rose sharply as thousands of refugees sought new homes. The United States admitted about 7,376,000 immigrants from 1945 through 1971. In the 1980s concern about the surge of illegal aliens into the U.S. led Congress to pass legislation aimed at cutting illegal immigration. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 allows most illegal aliens who have resided in the U.S. regularly since January 1, 1982, to apply for legal status. Also, the law prohibits employers from hiring illegal aliens and mandates penalties for violations.
Debate over immigration and immigration policy is not new to the nation's history. From time to time, Congress jarred legislation to control the flow of immigration. As immigration rises and hatred grows more laws will be implemented trying to release some of the pressure. An important immigration issue that the government needs to resolve at the present time, is the problem of illegal immigration. The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act which aimed at curbing illegal immigration, has succeeded in reducing the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States, according to a study released on July 20, 1989 by the Urban Institute. Border patrols operated by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) arrested 1.3 million illegal immigrants, most from Mexico, in a two-year period ending in September 1988. In 1989, the U.S. Department of State announced that 10,000 extra visas would be issued to immigrants from 162 countries - most of them in Europe, Africa, and South America - deemed underrepresented in the usual immigration flow. People from those countries, including aliens living in the United States illegally, were eligible to apply for permanent residency through a special lottery. Winners of visas would be chosen randomly by computer.
Emigration and immigration cause problems for the immigrants, for the country he leaves, and for the country to which he moves. Congress passes all immigration laws of the United States, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the Department of Justice administers these laws. It has authority to admit, exclude, and deport aliens according to the laws. Even with all the above mentioned rules and regulations, the United States has received a larger number of immigrants than any country in history.
- Bontemps, Arna and Conroy, Jack. Anyplace But Here. Hill & Wang, 1966.
- Carney,Dan, " Social Policy " Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, 9/7/96, Vol. 54 Issue 36,p2531.
- Conover, Ted. A Journey Through the Secret World of America's Illegal Aliens. Vintage, 1987.
- Hutchinson, E. P. Legislative History of American Immigration Policy, 1798-1965. Pennsylvania, 1981.
- May, Charles Paul. The Uprooted. Westminster, 1976.
- Miller,Glenn F., Los Angles Times, 7/1/93,pA25.
- Taylor, Monica. Workbook For Political science 5, Western Custom Publishing.