US Immigration

Timeline created by jana_thorstenson
  • Citizenship Law: 1790

    Citizenship Law: 1790
    In 1790, Congress passed a law defining who could become a citizen if a person was not born here: Citizenship was possible only for someone who was "a free white person." As that term was then understood, this barred any African or Asian immigrant from becoming a citizen. After the Civil War, this law was revised to allow people born in Africa to become citizens, but Asian immigrants were still excluded from citizenship.
  • Heavy Period of Immigration: 1880-1920

    Heavy Period of Immigration: 1880-1920
    One of the heaviest periods of immigration in American history came between 1880 and 1920 when some 25 million immigrants arrived. Most came from the countries of Southern and Eastern Europe--parts of the world that were unfamiliar to many Americans. They saw these new immigrants as very different from themselves.
  • Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

    Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
    The first major law on immigration was passed in the late 1800s. In 1882 Congress passed the first major law that barred entrance to specific grouops because the California Gold Rush and railroad building had attracted many immigrants. San Franciscans and others began to rally against the Chinese. In 1882 Congress responded by passing the Chinese Exclusion Act. It said that no chinese laborer could enter the US for 10 years. Renewed several times, the act was in force until WWII.
  • Quota Act of 1921

    Quota Act of 1921
    In 1921, Congress set up quotas favoring immigrants from northwestern Europe. The Immigration Act of 1924 expanded the quota system: immigration from any country is limited to 2 percent of its total numbers in the 1890 census.
  • Immigration Act of 1924

    Immigration Act of 1924
    The Immigration Act of 1924 introduced a quota system by country: Each country's immigrants were limited to 2 percent of foreign-born residents from that country listed in the US Census of 1890. This formula favored groups that had been in the US for a long time. During the next 40 years, immigration dropped sharply.
  • 1965: Immigration Reform Act

    1965: Immigration Reform Act
    In 1965 Congress passed the Immigration Reform Act, abolishing the quota system based on national origin. When he signed the reform bill, President Lyndon B. Johnson referred to the old system as "un-American." The new law was driven by 2 principles: reunifying families and giving priority to certain skills. The law also set up annual limits: 170,000 immigrants form the Eastern Hemisphere and 120,000 from the Western Hemisphere. The system gave top priority to unmarried children of US citizens.
  • Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)

    Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)
    President Reagan's IRCA had a dual purpose. First, Reagan wanted to slow illegal immigration by punishing employers who knowingly hired undocumented immigrants. Second, he wanted to offer a way for long-term, undocumented immigrants to become legal. If they could show they entered the US before Jan. 1982, and lived here continuously, they could apply for amnesty. Eligible workers could be granted temporary, then permanent residency. After five years, they could apply for citizenship.
  • Immigration Act of 1990

    Immigration Act of 1990
    By 1990, more than 80 percent of American immigrants came from Asia and Latin America. Congress wanted to prevent any one country from making up most of the immigrants to the US. In order to accomplish this, it passed the Immigration Act of 1990, which said that no country could account for more than 7 percent of total immigrants. The law also considered a person's education and skills. In addition, the law set up special categories for war refugees or close relatives of American citizens.
  • Immigration Reform Act of 1996

    Immigration Reform Act of 1996
    In 1996, concerns about the continuing probelm of illegal immigration led Congress to pass yet another immigration law. It increased the border patrol staff and stiffened penalties for creating false citizenship papers or smuggling undocumented workers.
  • George Bush's Immigration Bill

    George Bush's Immigration Bill
    In 2007, Bush committed himself to backing a bill to address all immigration issues. Bush's bill proposed to fill short-term labor needs through a guest worker program and strengthened border control. Bush argued that his bill was realistic because it did not propose to track down and deport millions of undocumented workers already here. The bill would also fine undocumented immigrants and require them to fulfill certain obligations before applying for citizenship. The Senate voted it down.