Immigration Laws Through the Years

8 Sep



Editor’s note: This is a second update to this piece. The facts from 1790 to 2016 remain the same. Additional info on Trump policy has been added.

The Naturalization Act of 1790 stipulated that “any alien, being a free white person, may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States”

1879– Supreme Court declared that regulation of US immigration is the responsibility of the Federal Government.

1882 The Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited certain laborers from immigrating to the United States.

1885 and 1887 Alien Contract Labor laws which prohibited certain laborers from immigrating to the United States.

1891 The Federal Government assumed the task of inspecting, admitting, rejecting, and processing all immigrants seeking admission to the U.S.

1892 On January 2, a new Federal US immigration station opened on Ellis Island in New York Harbor.


Theodore Roosevelt 26th President of the United States 1901-1909

1903 This Act restated the 1891 provisions concerning land borders and called for rules covering entry as well as inspection of aliens crossing the Mexican border.

1907 The US immigration Act of 1907 reorganized the states bordering Mexico (Arizona, New Mexico and a large part of Texas) into Mexican Border District to stem the flow of immigrants into the U.S.

1917 – 1924 A series of laws were enacted to further limit the number of new immigrants. These laws established the quota system and imposed passport requirements. They expanded the categories of excludable aliens and banned all Asians except Japanese.

1924 Act Reduced the number of US immigration visas and allocated them on the basis of national origin.

1940 The Alien Registration Act required all aliens (non-U.S. citizens) within the United States to register with the Government and receive an Alien Registration Receipt Card (the predecessor of the “green card”).

1950 Passage of the Internal Security Act which rendered the Alien Registration Receipt Card even more valuable. Immigrants with legal status had their cards replaced with what generally became known as the “green card” (Form I-151).

1952 Act Established the modern day US immigration system. It created a quota system which imposes limits on a per-country basis. It also established the preference system that gave priority to family members and people with special skills.

1968 Act Eliminated US immigration discrimination based on race, place of birth, sex and residence. It also officially abolished restrictions on Oriental (sic) US immigration.

1976 Act Eliminated preferential treatment for residents of the Western Hemisphere.

1980 Act Established a general policy governing the admission of refugees.

1986 Act Focused on curtailing illegal US immigration. It legalized hundred of thousands of illegal immigrants. It also introduced the employer sanctions program which fines employers for hiring illegal workers andpassed tough laws to prevent bogus marriage fraud.

George W Bush served as President of the United States from 2001-2009.

1990 Act Established an annual limit for certain categories of immigrants. It was aimed at helping U.S. businesses attract skilled foreign workers; thus, it expanded the business class categories to favor persons who can make educational, professional or financial contributions. It created the Immigrant Investor Program.

USA Patriot Act 2001 : Uniting and Strengthening America by providing appropriate tools required to intercept and obstruct terrorism
Creation of the USCIS 2003.

As of March 1, 2003, the US immigration and Naturalization Service becomes part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The department’s new U.S. Citizenship and US immigration Services (USCIS) function is to handle US immigration services and benefits, including citizenship, applications for permanent residence, non-immigrant applications, asylum, and refugee services. US immigration enforcement functions are now under the Department’s Border and Transportation Security Directorate, known as the Bureau of US immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE)

In 2016, the Obama administration moved to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees across the United States. Officials in Texas and Alabama filed lawsuits. The United States admitted 84,995 refugees in FY 2016.


In January, 2017, President Trump signed three executive orders mandating sweeping changes to immigration enforcement and reversing many policies enacted by the Obama administration.

The first two executive orders expand border security and interior enforcement. The third executive order promised to impose a moratorium on refugees and institute a travel ban barring nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

The order was rescinded and replaced with a revised executive order.

On January 27, President Trump issued an executive order designed to ban Muslims from entering the country and limit the refugee resettlement program. This executive order would have suspended the entry of citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, and Somalia for a 90-day period. It also would have granted the DHS discretion to expand the geographic scope and duration of the ban. Furthermore, the order would have suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days and all refugee admissions from Syria indefinitely.226 After 120 days, refugee admissions would have been limited to specific countries and would have prioritized religious minorities.

Federal courts halted President Trump’s January 27 executive order. On February 3, after the attorneys general of Washington and Minnesota filed suit to stop the executive order, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington temporarily suspended several of its key provisions, arguing that they violated the First and 14th Amendments by discriminating on the basis of nationality and religion. Amicus briefs were also filed by several former senior government officials, 16 state attorneys general, and more than 90 tech companies.227 On appeal, the 9th Circuit denied the government’s request to reinstate the ban.

There is little to add at this point since Mr. Trump changes what is left of his mind about important issues like this, on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis.


8 Replies to “Immigration Laws Through the Years

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