US Immigration Legislation

US Immigration Legislation Past and the Present

United States had extremely flexible policies on immigration from 1776 to 1875, and had very few laws implemented to restrict the entry of other foreign nationals. In fact in 1864, the congress has passed US immigration legislation in order to encourage the alien immigration into United States. The US immigration legislation rules determines everything regarding the alien visas, duties, rights and citizenship. Some changes and developments of these laws have evolved in a more positive direction, whereas on the contrary other aspects of the law have become further stringent causing more problems for certain ethnic groups of people.

Overview of immigration legislation in US history:

  • The enactment of Naturalization Act of 1790 and amendment of 1795 relaxed the laws of naturalization and increased the residency requirement from two to five years.
  • While the Congress broadened naturalization laws in 1870 to allow African-Americans to become naturalized citizens, however the Asian Americans did not receive such a right for many years.
  • To restrict the continuous influx of Asians between 1850 and 1882, Congress had to pass US immigration legislation known as the Chinese Exclusion Act to limit the Chinese immigration.
  • By the introduction of Johnson Reed Immigration Act in 1924, the quota of each nationality was reduced to 2% of total US population thus drastically reducing the European immigrants particularly Italians, Jews and Slavs.
  • The McCarran-Walter Act, also known as Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 abolished the quotas based on the race and replaced it with nationality. This US immigration legislation directed to the creation of Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) which served as a federal agency in taking care of immigration process.
  • Abolishing the immigration and naturalization criteria based on the nation of origin and race by Hart-Cellar Immigration and nationality act of 1965 encouraged other immigrants from non-European nations mainly the skilled professionals from Asian countries.

Enactment of Modern immigration laws:

  • With the increase in immigration population, the country also faced many problems of illegal or undocumented aliens which prompted Congress to enact the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) in 1986.
  • The Immigration Act of 1990 thoroughly revamped the US immigration legislation of INA by allocating the visas equally across foreign Nations thus encouraging worldwide immigration.
  • Regardless of the port of entry, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 revolutionized the process of alien entry into the US and implemented more checks at the designated ports.

Formation of Homeland Security:

  • With the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and increase in the number of unauthorized illegal entries in US there were many significant changes in the US immigration legislation, reformation of policies and changes in the visa categories.
  • On March 1st, 2003, the Bush Administration had passed a new US immigration legislation to replace the INS with the Department of Homeland Security to handle the duties of three most important federal agencies such as Customs and Border Enforcement, USCIS and ICE.