History of Immigration in the U.S.

  • Beginning of the Revolutionary War

    Beginning of the Revolutionary War
    By this time, approximately 450,000 Africans; 200,000 Irish; 500,000 Scottish and Scotch-Irish; 140,000 Germans; and 12,000 French inhabitted the thirteen colonies. These numbers do not include Native American tribes as they were not considered part of the colonies.
  • Declaration of Independence

    Declaration of Independence
    Unhappy with taxation policies and feeling a lack of parliamenery representation, among other greivances, the Continental Congress delcares the independence of the thirteen colonies from the British Empire.
  • End of Revolutionary War

    End of Revolutionary War
    With the help of the French, the colonists won the war, officially making the Unites States a new nation.
  • First U.S. Census

    First U.S. Census
    According to the results, the population consisted of almost 700,000 Africans and about 3 million Europeans. No note of Native Americans were taken as they were not considered part of the colonies.
  • Naturalization Act of 1795

    Naturalization Act of 1795
    This act repeals the orginal of 1790, granting "all free white persons" citizenship. The new act requires 5 years residency (rather than 2 years) and a a 3 year notice to seek naturalization. It also required that a person renounce allegiance to their former country. The residency requirements would be changed to 14 years in 1798 and back to 5 years in 1802. The addition of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, would permit the President to deport any foreigner deemed to be dangerous.
  • Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves

    Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves
    Put into effect as soon as the Constitution would allow, this act banned the importation of enslaved peoples. However, it was not well enforced and slavery would continue for many more decades.
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    The Irish and Germans

    During this period more than 2.3 million Irish and 2.2 million Germans arrived in the U.S. Most of the Irish, coming from poorer circumstances, setted in the Boston and New York City (the cities in which they arrived). The Germans on other hand, were better off and able to afford the journey to midwestern cities such as Chicago, Cincinnati, and St. Louis, or to claim farmland.
  • Irish Potato Famine

    Irish Potato Famine
    Also referred to as the Great Potato Famine. This famine was result of fungus, called blight, that devastated Irish potato crops for many years. More than a million people died from disease and starvation. Over a million more immigrated to the United States between 1845-1852. By the end of 1880, over 3.5 million Irish arrived in the U.S.
  • Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

    Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
    This treaty concluded the Mexican War and extended citizenship to about 80,000 Mexican residents of the Southwest.
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    The Chinese

    A surge of Chinese immigration occures in response to the California Gold Rush beginning in 1849. Most Chinese immigrants worked for a bit and returned to China. However, many others stayed, opening their own businesses or taking jobs as agricultural laborers, on railroad construction crews throughout the West, and in low-paying industrial jobs. Due to economic competition, racial suspicion and dislike spurred anti-Chinese legislation.
  • People v. Hall

    People v. Hall
    The California Supreme Court reverses the decision to convict George Hall who was found guilty for the murder of Ling Sing. Citing the race laws of the time, it we determined that because the Chinese belong to an “inferior caste of people who are non-citizens,” the testimony of such is inadmissible in court. This case effectively added Chinese people to a ban already in place prohibiting “Negroes” and “Indians” from testifying for or against white people.
  • Naturalization Act of 1870

    Naturalization Act of 1870
    This act limited eligibility for American citizenship to "white persons and persons of African decent" only, excluding any other non-white peoples;essentially, barring the naturalization of Chinese and other Asian immigrants.
  • Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

    Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
    This act excluded “skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese employed in mining." It required that Chinese immigrants obtain certification from their government that they were qualified to immigrate. This same certification was required of any immigrant who left the U.S. and entended to return. It was supposed to last only 10 years, but was extended for another 10 years after it expired.
  • Ellis Island Opens

    Ellis Island Opens
    Ellis Island was designated as nation's first immigration station. Operated until 1954, Ellis Island would see about 12 million immigrants pass through it; most of them being of European decent.
    Take of an interactive tour of the ilsand here:
  • Anarchist Exclusion Act

    Anarchist Exclusion Act
    President William McKinley was shot by Leon F. Czolgosz, an American born son of Polish immigrants, on this day. Czolgosz was also an anarchyst. President McKinley died, five days later, as a result of gangrene from the gunshot wound. On December 3, President Theodore Roosevelt urged the exclusion and deportation of anarchist immigrants in his first address to Congress. The act was signed into law on March 3rd, 1903.
  • Gentleman's Agreement with Japan

    Gentleman's Agreement with Japan
    The agreement is simply a note from February 4, 1907 in which the Japanese government agreeing not to issue passports to laborers who intend to enter the United States and in exchange the U.S agrees not restrict Japanese immigration (given that the passport is issued by the Japanse government). This agreement went into full effect on February 18, 1908.
  • Expatriation Act of 1907

    Expatriation Act of 1907
    This act declares that any American woman who marries a foriegn national loses her own American citizenship.
  • Angel Island "The Ellis Island of the West"

    Angel Island "The Ellis Island of the West"
    Angel Island, located in the San Francisco Bay, was built to be the immigration station of the west. It processed immigratns from Asian countries, specifically China, Japan, Russia and South Asia (in that order). Due to the Exclusionary Acts, the facility was mostly used to keep immigrants out of the country.
    For more information visit:
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    Mexican Revolution

    The Mexican Revolution forced thousands of Mexicans accross the U.S.-Mexico border. Social and economic unrest forced many northward in search of jobs. The vast majority found work in in industry, mines, on railroads, and in agriculture. World War I would increase the demand for Mexicnan Labor.
  • U.S. Congress Authorizes "Mounted Inspectors" Along U.S.-Mexico Border

    U.S. Congress Authorizes "Mounted Inspectors" Along U.S.-Mexico Border
    Even though the Mounted Guards or Inspectors had broad arrest authority, however, the majority exercised that authority on Chinese immigrants attempting to evade the Exclusion act. By 1920 an estimated 17,300 Chinese immigrants had entered the U.S. illegally by way of the Mexican or Canadian borders.
  • Immigration Act of 1917

    Immigration Act of 1917
    The Immigration Act of 1917 was passed by Congress who overrode President Woodrow's veto. The act requires that immigrants be able to read at 40 words of any language. It also barred the entrance of immigrants from Asian countries, with the exception of Japan and the Phillipines.
  • Immigration Act of 1924

    Immigration Act of 1924
    Also known as the Johnson-Reed Act, this act placed a quota or limit on immigration to 2% of the total number of people of each nationality in the United States as of the 1890 national census. It also completely excluded immigrants from Asia, especially Japan. This excllusion has much to due with the aftermath of WWI.
  • U.S. Border Patrol Established

    U.S. Border Patrol Established
    By way of the the Labor Appropriation Act of 1924, the U.S. Border Patrol was established. Early recruits consisted most of Texas Rangers, local sheriffs and deputies, and appointees from the Civil Service Register of Railroad Mail Clerks. Agents had to furnish their own horse and saddle, but the government provided oats and hay. Agents were paid $1,680 annually. They didn't have uniforms until 1928.
  • An Estimated 1 million Mexicans in U.S. Illegally

    An Estimated 1 million Mexicans in U.S. Illegally
    According to The Annual Report of the Commissioner General of Immigration of the United States Department of Labor, nearly half of the immigrants come from Canada and Mexico; and the majority of those immigrants come from Mexico. The same report stressed issues with Mexican immigrants, legal and not, are expanding further than the Southwestern states.
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    The Great Depression

    Began with the stock market crash on October 29, 1929 (known as Black Tuesday) and lasted until the 1940s. Due to severe economic hardship, immigration rates drastically declined during this period; fewer than 700,000 immigrants arrived in the U.S. during the 1930s, as opposed to the 4.3 million that arrived in the 1920s. Many immigrants returned to their home countries. Half a million Mexicans left.
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    World War II

    The War begins in Europe on September 1, 1939 when Germany invades Poland and ends on May 9, 1945 when Germany finally surenders. The war is fought on two major fronts; Europe and the Pacific. Millions of lives are lost. In the U.S. racism, anti-semitism, and overal xenophobia ensue.
  • Alien Registration Act of 1940

    Alien Registration Act of 1940
    This act requires that all alien residents, age 14 years and older, in the U.S. be registered and fingerprinted. Over 4.7 million aliens are registered.
  • Attack on Pearl Harbor

    Attack on Pearl Harbor
    The Japanese attack Americans in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The United States enters the second world war.
  • Executive Order 9066

    Executive Order 9066
    US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, sending tens of thousands of Japanese Americans (and others) to internment camps. President Ford repealled the act in 1976, deeming it a "national mistake". In 1988, the Redress Act would provide $20,000 as compensation to the survivors of the internment camps.
  • Bracero Program

    Bracero Program
    This program allowed approximately 5 million Mexican laborers to temporarily work on U.S. farms and railroads. The program ran for 22 years (1943-1964).
  • Chinese Exclusion Act repealed

    Chinese Exclusion Act repealed
    China had become an important U.S. ally against Japan. By the end of the 1940s all restrictions on Asians obtaining U.S. citizenship are abolished. Also known as the Magnuson Immigration Act of 1943.
  • United States v. Korematsu

     United States v. Korematsu
    In this landmark case, the Supreme Court upheld the internment of Japanese Americans as constitutional.
  • War Brides Act of 1945

    War Brides Act of 1945
    Between 1942 and 1952, about 1 million U.S. soldier married women from 50 different countries, who were unable to come back to the states with their husbands, because of immigration quotas. This act allowed the spouse and minor children of U.S. citizens who had been in active service during WWII to enter under a non-quota status. Three years later, a Fiance Act was enacted allowing the foriegn fiances of American soldier to enter the country on a 3 month visa.
  • Displaced Persons Act

     Displaced Persons Act
    Although he felt the act was extremely discrimatory and exclusionary, Presdent Truman signed the document, which allows specific Europeans, displaced by the war, to enter the country outside of immigration quotas. It won't be until the 1953 Refugee Releif Act that non-Europeans are included.
    To view President Truman's statement regarding this act, see:
  • McCarran-Walter Immigration Act

    McCarran-Walter Immigration Act
    This act governs immigration and citizenship in the United States. Until the act, a variety of statutes governed immigration law but were not organized in one body of text.
  • Operation Wetback

    Operation Wetback
    The specific dates are unknown, however, during the year of 1954, it is estimated that the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) deported more than 3.8 million people of Mexican decent. Under the supervision of commissioner Gen. Joseph Swing, the police swept through Mexican-American barrios, stopping "Mexican-looking" citizens on the street and asking for identification. (Does this sound familiar to any current Arizona residents?)
  • Hart-Cellar Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965

    Hart-Cellar Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965
    This act abolished the nation-of-origin restrictions on immigration. Instead, immigration is based on kinship ties, refugee status, and needed skills. As an unexpected result, an influx of Asian immigration, specifically Indians, growing from 16,103 between 1870-1965 to 96,735 immigrants in the decade following the passing of the act.
  • Refugee Act of 1980

    Refugee Act of 1980
    In response to the many Vietnamese immigrants seeking refugee after the war, President Carter signed this act into law to bring the U.S. into compliance with requirement of international law. This act allows any person unable or unwilling to return to his or her country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion to seek assylum in the U.S.
  • The Immigration Reform and Control Act

    The Immigration Reform and Control Act
    Signed into law by President Reagan, this act granted amnesty to about 3 million illegal immigrants who entered the United States before January 1, 1982 and had resided there continuously, or who were part of a seasonal agricultural program. The act also made it illegal for employers to knowing hire or recruit unauthorized immigrants.
  • Immigration Act of 1990

    Immigration Act of 1990
    Signed into law by President Bush, this act would increase the limits of legal immigration into the U.S. to 700,000 annually.
  • California votes yes of Prop 187

    California votes yes of Prop 187
    This proposition, also known as the "Save Our State" innitiative, intended to create a state run citizen screening system with the purpose of prohibiting illegal aliens from using healthcare, public education, and other social services in California. It was later challenged in a legal suit and found to be unconstitutional.
    For more information see:
  • Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act

    Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act
    This act includes provisions that would deny most forms of public assistance to most legal immigrants for five years or until they attain citizenship.
  • Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act

    Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act
    This act is a revision to the Immigration and Nationality Act. The purpose of this change is allow certain aliens who were once subject to expulsion from the United States to become legal residents. Some 300,000 Central Americans became legal residents under this revision.
  • Section 245(i) of the Legal Immigration Family Equity (LIFE) Act

    Section 245(i) of the Legal Immigration Family Equity (LIFE) Act
    This section of the LIFE Act allows certain persons who have an immigrant visa immediately available but entered without inspection or otherwise violated their status and thus are ineligible to apply for adjustment of status in the United States—to apply if they pay a $1,000 penalty.
    For more information see:
  • 9-11 Terrorist Attack in NYC

    9-11 Terrorist Attack in NYC
    This devistating event rekindled the patriotism of the nation, bringing people together in greif and anger. Unfortunately, it also rekindled xenophobia, especially toward people of the Middle East. It also strengthened border security when the DOD temporarily expanded military support unlong the borders.
  • "Minuteman Project"

    "Minuteman Project"
    This project, founded by civilian James Gilchrist, recruited about 450 civilian vonteers to patrol a 23 mile stretch of the U.S. Mexican border. This group claims to haved aided in the arrests of 146 undocumented immigrants.
  • Secure Fence Act

    Secure Fence Act
    This act authorized the construction of about 700 miles of double-layered fencing along the U.S.-Mexican border. It also allowed the Secretary of Homeland Security to take action with both personell and technology to stop the entrance of undocumented immigrants, contraband, and terrorists. In January 2007, Homeland Security estimated 11.8 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. That number decreased to about 11.6 million in January of 2007. By 2009, that number had decreased by two-third
  • Arizona Senate Bill 1070 signed into law

    Arizona Senate Bill 1070 signed into law
    This controversial bill expands the state's authority to combat illegal immigration. The most contriversial provision would require that immigrants carry and be prepared to present their documentation. Another controversial provision banned illegal immigrants from seeking work in AZ. This bill went to the Supreme Courts to have it constitutionality examined.
  • DREAM Act of 2012

    DREAM Act of 2012
    Under an executive order, President Obama, to create a broad policy change allowing children of illegal immigrants to remain in the country, temporarily benefiting about 800,000 young people. Under this change Homeland Security will no longer initiate deportation of illegal immigrants, under 30, who came to the United States before age 16, have lived here for at least five years, and are in school, are high school graduates or are military veterans in good standing with clean criminal records.
  • U.S. Supreme Court Upholds "Show me your papers" Provision of AZ SB1070

    U.S. Supreme Court Upholds "Show me your papers" Provision of AZ SB1070
    While many of the provisions of the bill were rejected, the "Show me your papers" provision was upheld. This provision requires immigrants to present proof of resident status when stopped by law enforcement officials. Law enforcement officials can only ask for documentation if they suspect the individual may in the country illegally. This practice went into effect on September 19, 2012 and continues to be a controversial issue.