Immigration Law Reform into the 20th Century

Abogado Aly History of Immigration ReformOpposition towards immigration began in the late 19th century as the immigrants coming into the United States (Irish Catholics, Germans, Chinese, Spanish) were ethnically different than the immigrants who had already established themselves (English Protestants). Eventually the opposition became strong enough to create   political pressures that called for immigration restrictions during the early 20th century.

Before 1875 immigration policy was never really discussed by the federal government  because there was nothing about immigration in the constitution. It was in 1875 when the US supreme court ruled that the federal government had complete control over immigration because it was the federal government’s  constitutional duty  to regulate international commerce.[1]  In 1882, the United States implemented its first two laws  to restrict immigration, The Chinese Exclusion Act, which suspended Chinese laborers from immigrating to the United States, and forced Chinese non-laborers to obtain authorization from their government. Second, Congress enacted and the President signed the Immigration Act which banned “convicts, prostitutes, lunatics, idiots, and those likely to become a public charge”[2] from entering the United States.  Up until the 1920s, a few more immigration laws were passed restricting the number of Japanese, Chinese, and women; even a Bureau of Immigration was established in 1891. The third wave of immigration was a period of the heaviest immigration to the United States, so the political pressures were mounting for a change in policy.

In the 1920s the Quota Law of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924 were implemented. These laws were significant in reducing the overall amount of immigration and skewed immigration towards the already settled immigrants of Britain, Ireland and other parts of northwestern Europe.[3] The Quota Law of 1921 legislated a maximum number of immigrants allowed per year. This maximum was limited at “three percent of the number of foreign-born persons of that nationality who lived in the United States in 1910”[4]. For example, if there were 100,000 immigrants from Ireland already in the United States, then only 3000 Irish people were allowed to immigrate to the United States that year. The Immigration Act of 1924 went a step further and reduced the number of foreign born to two percent for a three-year period while reducing its base year from 1910 to 1890.[5] This reduced the previous quota by half, and skewed the number of immigrants towards Irish, English, and German immigrants basically eliminating immigration from southern and eastern Europe. In 1929, immigration laws tightened again, reducing the quota even further and used the entire American population as its basis for ethnic origins causing there to be smaller percentages of immigrants from specific countries who were allowed into the United States.  By the end of the 1920s, immigration flow fell drastically from about 1 million per year to between 200,000 to 300,000 per year.[6] These quotas were implemented for the Eastern Hemisphere, whereas there was no real need for a quota on the Western Hemisphere because there was such a small amount of immigration from the West at this time.

A History of the United States Immigration Policy

Abogado Aly Immigration History“What do the American people want immigration to do for the United States”[1]? According to George Borjas, one of the leading labor economists who specialize in immigration issues, this should be the fundamental question in the modern immigration debate. Technically, everyone who now lives in the United States has some ancestor that immigrated to the United States from abroad and there was a point in time where there was no immigration policy. As the United States became wealthier and wealthier, an immigration policy became necessary to keep overpopulation and major wealth divisions from happening. Typically, when policy makers of the world focus on the immigration debate, they seem to use economics as their main basis for policy change. This is how immigration policy is implemented in most countries. If immigration were to make the native people economically worse off, why wouldn’t a country impose a strict immigration policy? On the other hand, if immigration were to make the native population economically better off, why wouldn’t a country impose a more lose immigration policy? This paper will describe the political forces in Canada and the United States that led to their different historic approaches to immigration, and then analyze their respective current policies in both political and economic terms.

The United States is a nation of immigrants. During the colonial era, from 1607 to 1820, a little less than one million people arrived and settled in the United States which comprised of about 600,000 Europeans, about 300,000 African slaves, and a small mix of Scots, Irish, Dutch, Germans, Swedes, and French.[2] This was considered the first wave of immigration to the United States. The second wave occurred from the years between 1840 and 1870 where about 15 million immigrants entered the country. Most of the immigrants came from Ireland (because of the Irish Potato Famine) and Germany while some Spanish speakers were coming through the southwest region and Chinese laborers were coming to California (because of the California gold rush).[3] The third wave of immigration, during the years between 1880 and 1920, was really when immigration opposition began and the need for an immigration policy became apparent. During the third wave, there were about 25 million immigrants. Most came in from England, Ireland, and Germany; but this time around, there was an abundance of immigrants coming in from southern and eastern Europe: Italy, Poland, Greece, Russia, Hungry, and other smaller nations.[4] Immigration public policy was marginally discussed by the mid-19th century. There were minimal attempts to keep criminals and other extreme undesirables out, but other than that, immigration did not affect people’s lives enough for there to be public discussion about it.

 

[1]George J Borjas, Heaven’s Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1999) xvi.

[2] John Isbister, The Immigration Debate: Remaking America (West Hartford, CT: Kumarian, 1996)32.

[3] Isbister 32.

[4] Isbister 32.

 

Immigration Flooding the United States due to Policy Inaction

Abogado Aly ImmigrationA recent article on Real Clear Politics discusses the consequences suffered by Obamas inaction on immigration reform. While speaking at political fundraisers last week in Texas, Obama refused to take photographs on the border. The Obama administration decided to focus on the stimulus package, Obamacare, and global warming initiatives instead of immigration.

This lead to a flood of underage immigration because parents wanted to get their children across the boarder before it was too late. In June of 2012, Obama declared that he would not enforce immigration regulations on young adults brought across the border before a certain time. This was considered popular in the Hispanic voting community, as deporting high school kids going to college was not a popular move among any voters. This added to the influx of underage immigration.

The House Republicans refuse to pass any immigration law that gives Obama the decision on how to enforce the law. They also want a provision that includes the deportation of underage immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Because of this recent litigation, immigrants are sending their children over to the United States so that they can stay there permanently. One residents in Latin America hear of any law allowing them to cross the boarder, a surge of immigrants will be inevitable. Because of this surge, the immigration debate has moved from legalization towards enforcing deportation.

Whereas countries like Canada and Australia have immigration laws that focus on high skilled workers, the United States has immigration laws that focus more on extending families. This makes it difficult to focus on attaining high-skilled immigrants.

This blog post is based off of this article from Real Clear Politics.

Immigration Law Passed to Curb Child Trafficking

Abogado Aly on Child ImmigrationIn a recent article by the New York Times, an immigration law has just been recently passed to curb child trafficking. One of the last things that George W. Bush did as president was sign one final piece of legislation. “This is a piece of legislation we’re very proud to sign”  White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, told to reporters on December 23, 2008 as the president signed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. This program was named after the 19th century British abolitionist  and the program will be very effective around the world in trying to stop trafficking.

The legislation following through into the Obama administration, might be the reason for the recent flow of unaccompanied minors at the nation’s southern border. It was recently pushed by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers as well as by evangelical groups to combat sex trafficking. This bill gave great new protections to children entering the country unattended who were not from Mexico or Canada by not allowing them to be quickly sent back to their home country. Instead of the sending these children back to their countries of origin, they would be given the opportunity to appear in an immigration hearing and have the ability to consult with an advocate and have access to a counsel. In addition, it is also required of them to be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services and the agency was directed to place the minor in “the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child.” The Obama administration explains they were to blame for the influx of children and they want to seek flexibility in the laws requirements when it comes to asking congress about providing emergency funds to deal with the latest immigrations crisis. However, democrats have shown reluctance to accept and support narrow immigration law changes. At the end of the day, according to Wendy Young the president of Kids in Need of Defense, she believe that there is no recognition that these kids are vulnerable moving across international borders alone. It will be interesting to see if the current administration can find a fix to this issue of child migration.

This blog post was written about this New York Times article.

Immigration Reform Needs Some Work

Abogado Aly Immigration ReformIn 2013, the Department of Homeland Security deported 368,644 immigrants from the United States at a rate of 1,010 people a day.

In the past, President Obama has trained Homeland Security to only target criminal immigrants who are a threat to the public and national security. This is not the case; however, since the number of immigrants deported last year would be an astonishing amount of felons. There were multiple immigrants deported for a simple traffic violation or misdemeanor. In New York, immigrants have been turned in for open container violations or sleeping in the subway. Because of this, the private detention centers that Homeland Security uses to house potential deport is pact to the brim with immigrants waiting for their removal hearings. Despite the ridiculous amount of mistreatment and poor conditions, the US Government has shown no sign in easing up on these allegations.

A recent study by a policy organization at Syracuse University discovered that persecutions for illegal reentry, which are classified as a felony, are rising even though prosecutions for illegal entry, which are classified as a petty misdemeanor, are falling. This is exactly why it was so disappointing to hear that the White House was going to delay their review of Homeland Security’s deportation policies for two months because Obama is trying to impress the Republicans at the House of Representatives.

The federal government also has a Secure Communities program that immediately captures people fingerprints at the time of their arrest, regardless of weather or not they have been convicted or charged with any crimes. This makes it a lot harder for the US government to capture real immigrant felons when they are relying on a database of 32 million individuals who may or may not be criminals.

Detainers are asked to keep immigrants incarcerated after their state or local charges have been revoked or their sentences expired so that the ICE has time to transfer them straight to federal custody. In the past couple of years, the City Council has passed laws that keep the Correction Department from honoring detainers except if the target person is a felon, committed a serious misdemeanor, seen on a terror watch list, has been previously deported, or meets other criteria. Today, lawyers estimate that the city enforces about 2/3 of ICE’s detainer requests.