Immigration Policies and Internal Migration Throughout U.S. History

By alily
  • Early English Settlements

    Early English Settlements
    English colonies were set up along the east coast of the continent; the more well known early settlements include Massachusetts Bay, Jamestown, and Plymouth. Settlers fled England for economic as well as religious reasons. By the middle of the 18th century, Great Britain had become the dominant empire in the modern day continental United States.
  • Early French Settlements

    Early French Settlements
    Early French settlements were concentrated in the Northeast near Canada. The French settlers got along much better with the natives compared to the English and Spanish, mostly because they depended on the fur trade to survive. After France's defeat in the French and Indian War, it ceded all of its possessions in North America to Great Britain, effectively ending any hope of a French colonial empire there.
  • Early Spanish Settlements

    Early Spanish Settlements
    The Spanish conquistadors were the first to explore the Americas, and their missionaries attempted to subjugate and convert the natives at the same time. New Spain was set up in Florida, which was not successful and poorly defended. By the eighteenth century, Spanish influence on the east coast was considerably weakened, although Spain still had significant control over holdings in South America, Central America, and the Southwest.
  • Slavery and Indentured Servitude

    Slavery and Indentured Servitude
    From Europe, young people from the poorer classes would bind themselves to service in order to travel to the New World and one day gain freedom. On the other hand, millions of Africans were forced from their homes onto slave ships, transported ("middle passage"), and sold into slavery. This is significant because their descendants would make up at least a fifth of antebellum Southern cities, and the civil war would be fought largely over the issue of slavery.
  • Revolutionary War Ends

    Revolutionary War Ends
    The end of the American Revolution effectively nullified all the treaties the British had held with Native American tribes. No longer confined to the East Coast, a flood of American settlers crossed the Appalachian range to move into the area east of the Mississippi River. This laid down the groundwork for a long history of the U.S. government prioritizing territorial expansion over the rights of natives.
  • Ordinances of 1785 and 1787

    Ordinances of 1785 and 1787
    The Land Ordinance of 1785 divided the Ohio territory into rectangular plots of land that could be purchased by settlers. Two years later, the Northwest Ordinace stated the process for territories to apply for and be accepted for statehood. Both of these acts set the precedent for the government's expansion and settlement policy, as well as opened up the west to settlement by whites.
  • Alien and Sedition Acts

    Alien and Sedition Acts
    The Alien and Sedition Acts were passed under President Adams' admnistration and limited the liberties of foreigners and dissenters. In addition to outlawing false statements made against the government, these acts allowed the president to deport foreigners he considered dangerous and made the naturalization process more restrictive. This represented the first time the federal government had enacted laws against immigrants, and foreshadowed centuries of politically motivated immigration bills.
  • Louisiana Purchase and Adams-Onis Treaty

    Louisiana Purchase and Adams-Onis Treaty
    In 1803, President Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from France for $15 million, nearly doubling the land occupied by the United States. In 1819, under President Monroe, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams signed the Transcontinental Treaty, which led to Spain basically renouncing all its claims to Florida and the northern Far West. These treaties opened more of the midwest to American settlement and created a path to America's eventual acquisition of all the land to the Pacific.
  • Cotton belt

    Cotton belt
    Beginning in 1810, small farmers began moving from the original Southern states of Georgia and South Carolina westward towards eastern Texas in order to get land to profit from slave labor. Later, larger plantation owners would follow and buy the land from the smaller slaveholders. This turned the South into the massive cotton factory that it would be famous for throughout the rest of the century, and cemented Southerners' reliance on slavery and plantations.
  • Utopian communities

    Utopian communities
    During the social reform period in the 1820s following the Second Great Awakening, many people who were disillusioned with the compeitive and material nature of the market economy retreated into isolated communities that represented the perfect society. Examples were New Harmony, Oneida, and Brook Farm. This symoblized the response to industrialization, and showed that people were willing to isolate themselves completely from the rest of society.
  • First Industrial Revolution

    First Industrial Revolution
    Between 1800 and 1840, there was the introduction of the market economy, transportation revolution, various inventions, and industrialization. Increasingly, demand for specialized labor decreased, and people left their agricultural jobs to work in the city. This, along with the popularization of the factory system (Lowell mills), led to one of the earlier waves of urban growth. Construction of canals and later railroads catalyzed the development of many small towns into booming cities.
  • Indian Removal Act

    Indian Removal Act
    The Indian Removal Act, signed by President Jackson, authorized the negotiation of Native American tribal relocation from the South to western territories. This was significant because it created a path for the government to force the removal of these Indians as most famously seen in the Trail of Tears. This set a precedent for removing Indians to unwanted lands in order to make room for white settlers.
  • Settling Texas and the Far West

    Settling Texas and the Far West
    Under liberal Mexican immigration policies, white Americans moved to Texas and settled there, eventually outnumbering the native Texans and leading to the Texan Revolution. The Mexican-American War in the next decade gave the U.S. New Mexico and California to settle as well. The Santa Fe Trail and the Oregon Trail were used by traders and settlers before the advent of rail travel.
  • Manifest Destiny

    Manifest Destiny
    Although squatters and speculators had been taking control of midwestern and far western lands for decades, it wasn't until the 1830s and 1840s that, encouraged by the government, whole families started moving west to start new lives. Coined by John L. O'Sullivan, "manifest destiny" referred to the widely held belief that it was America's God-sanctioned right and duty to spread American ideals to the other side of the continent. In the 1850s, it was undermined by disputes over slavery.
  • California Gold Rush

    California Gold Rush
    The California Gold Rush began in 1848, and within the next decade California's population had jumped to nearly 400,000. For more than half a century afterwards, the mining frontier was still strong with discoveries being made every few years, and even expanded northward to Alaska in the 1880s. The obvious effect was the rapid population of far western territories--so rapid, in fact, that California became a state without even first becoming a US territory,
  • Rise of Nativism

    Rise of Nativism
    As greater numbers of German and Irish immigrants flowed into the U.S., some people became nervous that they were taking away from American ideals, especially because most Irish were Catholics. The Know-Nothing Party was founded as a response to these fears, and although it had little effect on congressional policy, the party actively campaigned to limit the political rights of non-natives. This showed that a many people were uncomfortable with non-assimilationist immigrants and job competition.
  • Second Industrial Revolution

    Second Industrial Revolution
    The beginning of the industrialization era of the late 1880s is commonly associated with Henry Bessemer's introduction of his steelmaking process. Such technological innovations gave rise to big business, which in turn gave rise to the factory system. As more farmers turned to industrial labor and artisans were replaced by unskilled labor, cities grew bigger and denser, and the influx of both immigrants from abroad and migrants from rural areas created speedy urbanization.
  • Homestead Act

    Homestead Act
    This act provided 60 acres of free land to any settler who had lived on that land for five years. Although the act, along with other similar acts, was taken advantage of by speculators and railroad companies, it did succeed to some degree in its original purpose: to promote settlement of the west by individuals and families. Within three years of passage, over 20,000 people had moved west under the Homestead Act.
  • South Under Reconstruction

    South Under Reconstruction
    After the Civil War, Northerners who moved to the South were known as "carpetbaggers." Some wanted to democratize the South, while others seeked personal economic gains by taking advantage of the devastated condition of the South. Shortly after Reconstruction ended, 4,000 former slaves moved west to Kansas, called "exodusters." Most carpetbaggers did not remain in the South, but the exodusters did represent a part of the freedmen who moved out of the South while others stayed as sharecroppers.
  • First Transcontinental Railroad

    First Transcontinental Railroad
    The completion of the transcontinental railroad meant that the government could ship supplies and troops for fighting Indians, which eventually resulted in Indian displacement and the opening of the West to white settlement. The railroad also assisted many families in moving westward, and also helped those farmers who had already moved west to get their goods to eastern markets.
  • Chinese Exclusion Act

    Chinese Exclusion Act
    Congress initially passed this act to ban Chinese immigrants from entering America for ten years, but it stayed in effect until 1943. The bipartisan effort to eliminate Chinese immigration, as well as frequent displays of violence towards Chinese immigrants, made evident the public anti-Chinese sentiment. This was partially caused by the fact that Chinese immigrants were willing to work dangerous jobs for low wages, which made many Americans feel threatened.
  • Oklahoma Land Rush

    Oklahoma Land Rush
    Congress transferred nearly two million acres of the Oklahoma Territory from generic Indian ownership to the federal public domain. Thousands of men arrived in Oklahoma on the day the law took effect to claim lands, securing homesteads to move their families and start new lives. One year later, the Curtis Act invalidated all Indian claims, and opened the West to virtually unrestricted settlement.
  • Ellis Island

    Ellis Island
    Before this time, most immigrants were from northern and western Europe and from China, but the 1890s saw an increase in southern and eastern European immigrations--these were called "new immigrants." The influx of immigrants contributed to urbanization, since most settled in cities, as well as the rise of slums. The federal government built Ellis Island during this time for the purpose of processing immigrants, which included admitting them into the country, detaining them, and deporting them.
  • Gentlemen's Agreement

    Gentlemen's Agreement
    The Japanese government was unhappy that the San Francisco school board was segregating its schools by forcing Asian students to go to separate schools from non-Asian students. The US and Japan informally agreed that the US government would see that the segregation was discontinued, and the Japanese government would stop further emigration to the US. The agreement symbolized a widespread distrust of and discrimination against foreigners as well as the rising tensions between the two countries.
  • Model T Ford

    Model T Ford
    The year 1920 was the first time in American history that more people lived in cities than in rural areas. Even as immigrants and farmers continued to move to cities and America became an increasingly urban nation, the elite and the wealthier middle class began to move from the city to the suburbs. The invention and popularization of the automobile meant that people could start commuting to work and gave them much greater freedom of travel.
  • Great Migration

    Great Migration
    Pushed by the Jim Crow laws, KKK, and threat of lynchings in the South and pulled by economic opportunities in the North (especially during wartime), 1.6 million African-Americans moved to Northern cities between 1910 and 1930. This meant that they were no longer part of the negative feedback loop of sharecropping, a crucial step in improving blacks' economic status. The Great Migration also led to the Harlem Renaissance, an outpouring of art and ethnic pride from the black community.
  • Palmer Raids

    Palmer Raids
    In response to the Red Scare, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer adopted a policy of raiding the homes of alleged radicals and communists. Along with future FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, the Justice Department under Palmer arrested thousands of suspected radicals without warrants or formal charges and deported hundreds of immigrants. These procedures were indicative of the government's fear of a social revolution and its willingness to persecute those they believed might start one.
  • Sacco-Vanzetti Case

    Sacco-Vanzetti Case
    This was a 1920 capital case that convicted Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two immigrants from Italy, of armed robbery and murder and sentenced them to death. Sacco and Vanzetti were known anarchists, and the lack of definitive incriminating evidence implies that they were convicted more for their political beliefs than on the basis of any evidence. It was an example of just how enveloping the Red Scare paranoia was, if it permeated not only society but the judicial system as well.
  • Emergency Quota Act

    Emergency Quota Act
    The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 created immigration quotas that amounted to 3 percent of the immigrant population of a specific country in 1910. Leading up to this act was a series of congressional bills that excluded illiterate immigrants from entering the country due to the belief that immigrants were inherently inferior. This act also set the precedent for a series of later acts and amendments that further limited immigration, including the Immigration Act of 1924.
  • National Origins Act

    National Origins Act
    The National Origins Act of 1924 tightened the restrictions imposed by the Emergency Quota Act by lowering the quotas from 3 percent to 2 percent and pushing back the deciding year from 1910 to 1890. This was reflective of a negative attitude towards immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, especially Catholics and Jews, since those new immigrants had started coming to the US in large numbers after 1890. Asian immigration was not even taken into consideration.
  • Hoover and FDR

    Hoover and FDR
    Difficult times and widespread poverty led to the temporary relocation of thousands of Americans in the 1930s. Homeless families lived in Hoovervilles while two thousand bonus marchers camped outside of Washington D.C. after Congress denied them bonus payments. A few years later, the New Deal established the Civilian Conservation Corps, which sent half a million young men to work in national parks.
  • Los Repatriados

    Los Repatriados
    Resentment of Mexican-Americans grew as jobs became scarcer and white men started competing with Hispanics for the same positions. Half a million Hispanic workers returned to Mexico during the Great Depression; some left of their own accord, while others were encouraged by federal and local governments to go home with free transportation. In addition to "voluntary" repatriation, Mexican immigratns were ineligible to receive relief payments or work in the jobs created by the New Deal agencies.
  • Dust Bowl

    Dust Bowl
    Drought and soil erosion were the causes of the dust storms that plagued the Great Plains throughout the decade. Since farmers could no longer plant crops or make a profit, about 3.5 million migrants, nicknamed "Okies," left their homes in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Many of these migrants headed west to the promised land of California, where they hoped to find work.
  • St. Louis

    St. Louis
    By 1938, it became clear to the American government that Jewish people were being persecuted in Germany. However, most Americans were in opposition to taking in refugees, and Congress and FDR were unwilling to change the earlier immigration laws that created strict quotas on Eastern European immigration. In 1939, the German ship St. Louis arrived in Florida carrying almost a thousand Jewish refugees, but were refused refuge in the United States and sent back to Nazi Germany.
  • War Production

    War Production
    Fighting a war in Europe and the Pacific meant that millions of young people were displaced. On the other hand, the war effort on the home front sped up the process of urbanization that had been going on since the industrial revolution. As the federal government contracted companies to build war materials, demand for labor was high in cities and more than offset the unemployment caused by the Great Depression. As a result, upwards of six million people migrated from rural areas to urban areas.
  • Internment of Japanese Americans

    Internment of Japanese Americans
    Two months after Pearl Harbor, mounting distrust of Japanese Americans, especially on the West Coast, pushed President Roosevelt to sign Executive Order 9066, which ordered the evacuation of Japanese Americans from specified areas and relocation to internment camps. Internment, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in Korematsu v. U.S., caused more than 100,000 Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Americans to leave their homes and possessions.
  • Bracero Program

    Bracero Program
    America's agricultural labor market was facing a supply shortage, so the U.S. and Mexico agreed to a bracero program, through which approximately two hundred thousand Mexicans were employed as temporary workers on American farms. In addition to these legal migrants, hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants came to find work. In most cases the local and federal governments were unwilling to enforce contracts between braceros and farmers, and unable to prevent the exploitation of illegal aliens.
  • Suburbia

    The postwar prosperity of the white middle class resulted in the "white flight" from urban areas to the suburbs, most famously characterized by Levittowns. These towns represented the ideal life for many middle class Americans: safety, good education, and stability. However, the suburbia movement is criticized for contributing to urban decay and its conformist, non-diverse nature. It is the largest internal migration in US history, involving 20 million Americans.
  • Sunbelt

    The Sunbelt states consisted of the Deep South all the way to Texas and southern California. This region saw an influx of residents for a variety of reasons: some were older people who liked the warmer climate, while others moved there for commercial reasons, encouraged by lower taxes and business costs, as well as lesser influence of labor unions. This was significant since it led to a resurgence of Republican conservatism in that area.
  • McCarran-Walter Act

    McCarran-Walter Act
    The McCarran-Walter Act of 1952, also known as the Immigration and Nationality Act, was originally vetoed by President Truman but was nevertheless passed into law when Congress overrode the veto. This was during the Second Red Scare, when there was a widespread fear of communism, and the act continued the quotas that limited southeast European immigration and allowed the attorney general to deport foreigners deemed undesirable, symbolizing widespread distrust of foreigners.
  • Operation Wetback

    Operation Wetback
    Operation Wetback, referring to illegal immigrants from Mexico, was put into place by the Eisenhower administration during the economic downturn from 1953 to 1955. During this time, the federal government deported 3 million immigrants who were accused of coming to the U.S. undocumented. This was representative of the resentment towards Mexican immigrants during harsh economic times due to greater competition for jobs.
  • Voluntary Relocation Program

    Voluntary Relocation Program
    Also known as the Indian Relocation Act, the Voluntary Relocation Program that began in the mid-1950s saw the federal government encouraging Native Americans to move off of reservations by paying relocation fees and helping them find jobs and new homes. In the next four years, about 60,000 Indians had relocated. However, the fact that most of them either abandoned their culture or suffered in poverty signified the dilemma sof Indian assimilation.
  • Interstate Highway Act

    Interstate Highway Act
    In the mid-1950s, spurred by Cold War fears, President Eisenhower got Congress to pass a bill that would allow him to tax transportation to fund a new public-works project, an interstate roadway system. The ability to commute farther distances to and from work led to the "white flight" phenomenon, as middle- and upper- class whites fled from cities to suburbs. In turn, this led to urban decay and worsening conditions for the inner-city poor.
  • Haight Ashbury

    Haight Ashbury
    Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, represented the center of the counterculture movement, most famously associated with the Hippie lifestyle of cultural rebellion, drugs, sexual freedom, nonconformity, anti-violence, and liberalism. In the summer of 1967, known as the Summer of Love, 100,000 people gathered in Haight Ashbury to celebrate their culture. This was revealing of the growing generation gap as well as the youth culture gaining traction in the 1960s.
  • Immigration Act of 1965

    Immigration Act of 1965
    The Immigration Act of 1965 was part of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs, and it got rid of the quotas on immigration that had been enacted in the 1920s and continued in the 1950s. Whereas immigrants had mostly come from Europe before this, now Latin Americans and Asians were immigrating in greater numbers. Although legal immigration increased four-fold, illegal immigration was more prevalent as well. In turn, immigrant activism became more influential.