US Immigration Laws

US Immigration


US Immigration Laws
This section provides comprehensive facts, history and information about US Immigration Laws. Immigration to America began during the Colonial period of American history when people from England made the 3000 miles journey searching for religious and political freedom, to escape persecution and start a new life in America.

The English were soon followed by immigrants from other northern European countries such as Germany, Holland and Scandinavia. There were no restrictions on who entered the country, so no Immigration laws were necessary. Time passed and the early European migrants were joined by many others. By the late 1800's there were objections to the swelling numbers of immigrants and the U.S. government were forced to respond. Congress authorized legislation placing restrictions on immigrants and the first restrictive US Immigration Laws were passed. The following articles include a full list of US Immigration Laws, a useful timeline and details of all the passed in the 1800's and in the 1900's, which include recent and current US Immigration Laws.

List of US Immigration Laws
US Immigration Laws 1800's
US Immigration Laws 1900's
US Immigration Laws Timeline

US Immigration Laws: The Purpose of US Immigration Laws
Immigration laws vary according to the political climate of the times. The purpose of US Immigration Laws is to safeguard the nation and enable the national government:

  • To standardize the legal status of people, in matters such as citizenship
  • To control the flow of immigration
  • To limit the number of workers entering the country to avoid a labor surplus
  • To regulate and control procedures at entry points to the United States
  • To protect the US from dangerous immigrants
  • To exercise deportation policies
  • To react to crisis situations such as wars and threats of terrorism

The Department of Homeland Security, which replaced the Immigration and Naturalization Service, enforces US Immigration laws.

US Immigration Laws: Definition of an Alien
The term 'Alien' is commonly used in US Immigration laws. An alien is defined as a foreign-born person who is not a citizen, or national, of the United States of America. An alien may be either an immigrant or a non-immigrant. An alien can include:

  • People seeking admission to the U.S.
  • People who are admitted permanently as immigrants. They are lawful, permanent citizens
  • People who are admitted temporarily as non-immigrants. They are people who are admitted to the U.S. temporarily for a specific purpose
  • An Illegal Alien, also known as an "Undocumented Alien," is a person who has entered the United States illegally and is deportable if apprehended

US Immigration Laws: Early US Immigration Laws - The Naturalization Acts
The early US Immigration Laws were the Naturalization Acts of 1790, 1795 and 1798. These were not laws to restrict immigration, they were laws to govern Naturalization of migrants, the process of gaining United States citizenship. The Naturalization Laws established a residence requirement which started at 2 years in 1790 which was increased to 5 years in 1795. In 1798 it was raised to 14 years an increased desire to guard the nation during the period of international turmoil caused by the French Revolution and the 1798 Alien Enemies Act was passed in the same year. The Naturalization Law of 1802 required the entry of all aliens into the United States to be recorded and reverted to the 5 year residence requirement.

Restrictive US Immigration Laws: Restrictive Laws
Restrictive US Immigration Laws started in the late 1800's. The restrictive laws targeted those considered 'Undesirables', Public Charges, Illiterates, Paupers, Criminals, Anarchists, Political Extremists, Anti-war protesters, Members of radical labor unions and Terrorists. Restrictive US Immigration Laws were also aimed at specific ethnic groups and various countries of origin. Details of the restrictive US Laws include the following legislation:

Restrictive US Immigration Laws
  • The 1875 Page Act, aka the Asian Exclusion Act, was the first restrictive federal immigration law prohibiting the entry of oriental immigrants considered "undesirable".
  • The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act specifically targeted laborers from China on a temporary basis for ten years but the period was subsequently extended by new US Immigration laws.
  • The Immigration Act of 1882 restricted European immigration for those who likely to become public charges.
  • Contract laborers were prohibited in the 1885 law.
  • In 1891 stringent standards of admissibility for entry into America and restrictive laws were passed banning paupers, criminals, those with questionable morals and people suffering from ‘loathsome or contagious’ diseases
  • The 1903 Anarchist Exclusion Act prohibited the entry of people judged to be anarchists and political extremists
  • The 1917 Barred Zone Act restricted immigration by barring all laborers from Eastern Asia by creating an "Asiatic Barred Zone". The law also introduced a literacy test for all immigrants over 14 years old
  • Following the Dillingham Commission report Intolerance toward immigrants from southern and eastern Europe increased resulting in the Immigration Act of 1924
  • The Immigration Act of 1918 restricted anti-war protesters and members of radical labor unions
  • The 1921 Emergency Quota Act introduced a discriminatory system of national quotas
  • The Alien Registration Act that required the registration and fingerprinting of all US aliens
  • The 1996 Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) restricted immigration to protect against terrorism following the attacks on the World
  • Trade Center and Oklahoma City
  • The 2001 USA Patriot Act was passed to enhance law enforcement to deter and punish terrorist acts in the US
  • Enhanced Border Security, the REAL ID Act and the Secure Fence Law were all passed to restrict unwanted aliens and enhance security in the United States

US Immigration Laws: Reform Laws
US Immigration Laws were also aimed at reform to ensure that more recent US Immigration Laws were established to create rational and fair US immigration policies. US Immigration Reform Laws were passed to reverse the quota system and discrimination against certain ethnic groups and countries of origin. Other US Immigration Laws were passed following WW2, the Korean War and the Vietnam War in respect of Displaced Persons. Reform laws were passed in relation to alien wives and fiancées of servicemen. US Immigration Laws based on humanitarian grounds were passed to help refugees and asylum seekers. And the 2000 Bring Them Home Alive reform Act granted refugee status in the United States for nationals of foreign countries who assisted in the return of POW/MIAs to the United States.

US Immigration Laws
The facts and information regarding US Immigration Laws, including restrictive law and reform law, provide an overview of the reasons and changes to legislation and clarify matters concerning federal immigration law.

DISCLAIMER: This website and any information contained herein are intended for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel from an Immigration lawyer for advice on any legal matter.


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