Immigration Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: Part II America’s vacillating history & policies

To understand immigration in New Jersey we first have to look at American history and federal policies. There is nothing new in U. S. history about Trump’s anti-immigration policies. Americans encouraged relatively free and open immigration during the 18th and early 19th centuries, and rarely questioned that policy until the late 1800s. However, the Supreme Court in 1875 declared regulation of immigration a federal responsibility and congress began to pass immigration legislation. What has been happening with immigration since then in New Jersey and throughout the U. S. A. is largely influenced by what laws Congress and the President enact.


The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and Alien Contract Labor laws of 1885 and 1887 prohibited certain laborers from immigrating to the United States. By the early 1900’s most immigration laws sought to protect American workers and wages. The outbreak of World War I greatly reduced immigration from Europe. Because mass immigration resumed after the war Congress responded with a national origins quota system that numerically limited immigration. With the coming of World War II immigration became viewed as a national security rather than an economic issue. There was the the recording and fingerprinting of every “alien” in the United States and later internment camps and detention facilities for enemy aliens, particularly the Japanese.

Following the war in the 1940s and 1950s, new laws allowed for admission of many refugees displaced by the war and unable to come to the United States under regular immigration procedures. Between 1951 and 1964 the “Bracero Program” matched seasonal agricultural workers from Mexico with approved American employers with hundreds of thousands of braceros entering the country each year as non-immigrant laborers.

Changes in world migration patterns, the ease of modern international travel, and a growing emphasis on controlling illegal immigration all shaped the development through the closing decades of the 20th century. With the the events of September 11, 2011 the emphasis of American immigration law enforcement became border security and removing criminal immigrants to protect the nation from terrorist attacks. At the same time the United States retained its commitment to welcoming lawful immigrants and supporting their integration and participation in American civic culture.

Deportations increased in each of the first four years President Obama was in office, topping 400,000 in fiscal year 2012 – mored deportations then his predecessor.  They declined in each of the three years since then. Illegal immigration from Mexico has dropped in recent years, but many from Central America still attempt to cross the border. In 2012, the administration granted a temporary reprieve from deportation to certain immigrants (DACA) who were brought to this country illegally as children. In late 2014, President Obama tried to expand that reprieve to several million immigrants who are the parents of U.S. citizens or green card holders. Texas and other states challenged the move in federal court.

Then along came President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Federal laws rule, but we still have the 1st Amendment and a court system, and we are using them ever more abundantly. 

You can read Immigration Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: Part I Overview & now in NJ

Comment (1)

  1. Bill Orr (Post author)

    The latest insult to immigrants: Washington Post reports this morning that immigrants who accept almost any form of welfare or public benefit could be denied legal U.S. residency under a plan awaiting approval by the administration, which is seeking to reduce the number of foreigners living in the United States.


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