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Immigration In The United States Of America History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

During its first hundred years, the United States had a laissez-faire policy toward immigration-no limits. Federal, state, and local governments, private employers, shipping companies and railroads, and churches promoted immigration to the United States. For example, subsidizing railroad construction led to the recruitment of immigrant workers by private railroad companies. High tariffs kept out European manufactured goods and thus created a demand for more workers in American factories. The federal government relied on immigrants to staff the army-immigrants were about a third of the regular soldiers in the 1840s, and an even higher proportion of many state militias.

The Door-Ajar era approach began in 1870s. There were popular movements to restrict the immigration of particular groups perceived as threatening. Congress barred the entry of convicts and prostitutes in 1875, and the Immigration Act of 1882 for the first time prohibited immigration from a particular country- China-at the behest of urban workers in California who felt threatened by “unfair competition.” ( ) Immigration from China was illegal for most of the next 60 yearsEven though a weak economy and increasing immigration led to restrictions on immigration, foreign policy considerations delayed the implementation of these restrictions. The Door-Ajar policy started to gain momentum after 1890. Restrictions and attempts to impose restrictions were the product of a fluctuating economy. But the major reason for the growing opposition to immigration was its composition. Whereas the majority of the old immigrant came from Western Europe, most of the new immigrants came from Eastern and Southern Europe. The German, British and the other Western Europe immigrants who were Protestant overall, were replaces by Russians, Polish and Italian immigrants, the majority of whom were Greek-Orthodox, Catholic or Jewish. One of the most important aspects of this era was the attempt to block immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe. Most of the efforts were totally unsuccessful.

The shift to the more restrictive Pet-door era started in 1917, when, after numerous attempts, Congress finally passed the literacy test bill and in addition to the literacy test, the immigration act of 1917 added excludable classes, raised the head tax, and introduced the power to deport aliens convicted of certain offenses. A couple of years later, Congress imposed the first quantitative restrictions on immigration, limiting arrivals to 3 percent of the foreign-born persons of each nationality present in the United States in 1910. The base year was soon pushed back to 1890, before most third-wave immigrants had arrived, when northern and western Europeans made up a larger proportion of the population.

Restrictions on permanent immigration reached a peak during and after World War I. However, wars also generate support for temporary migration. World War I created a demand for additional manpower because part of the labor force was drafted, another part was employed in war industries. World War II, like World War I had an impact on immigration policy. First, the war increased conformity and anti-immigration sentiment, leading to some restrictions on freedom of expression, potential immigrants and foreign-born citizens. Secondly, the wartime need for manpower generated the recruitment of migrant workers. But the most important development during World War II was the growing influence of foreign policy considerations which led to the liberalization of U.S immigration policy.

In the 1960s, the civil rights movement highlighted government discrimination against nonwhites, which influenced in a negative way U.S. immigration policy. President John Kennedy proposed eliminating the national origins system in the early 1960s. In 1965, Congress moved to eliminate racial and ethnic discrimination in American immigration policy. It managed to do that offering priority to immigrants with relatives in the United States who petitioned for their admission inside the country. Migrants from Asia were treated like other foreigners seeking to immigrate and, for the first time, quantitative restrictions were placed on immigration from the Western Hemisphere.

Until the 1980s, U.S. immigration law could be described as a complex system that is in a continue change looking to reach the needs of each generation in particular. The accelerating pace of global change affected migration patterns all over the world, and that is why US Congress responded with three major changes in immigration laws between 1980 and 1990. The first change was in the definition of refugees. The 1951 UN Refugee Convention defined a refugee as a person outside his or her country of citizenship and unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution due to the person’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion(”). During the Cold War, the United States defined refugees as persons fleeing communist dictatorship or political violence in the Middle East. But, the United States adopted the UN definition with the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980(”). The number of refugees resettled is determined each year by the president in consultation with Congress. The second major policy change aimed to reduce illegal immigration. During the 1960s, the Border Patrol apprehended 1.6 million foreigners; during the 1970s, apprehensions rose five-fold to 8.3 million. After studying the effects of illegal immigration commissions concluded that illegal migrants adversely affected unskilled American workers and undermined the rule of law. They urged the government to continue the effort to reduce migration in United States. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) recorded a historic deal between those who wanted to prevent more illegal migration and those who wanted to legalize the status of illegal foreigners who already are on United States territory. The most important upgrades that The Immigration Reform and Control Act brought are as it follows. Required employers to attest to their employees immigration status, and granted amnesty to certain illegal immigrants who entered the United States before January 1, 1982 and had resided there continuously. Also it made it illegal to knowingly hire or recruit illegal immigrants (immigrants who do not possess lawful work authorization).Last, it granted a path towards legalization to certain agricultural seasonal workers and immigrants who had been continuously and illegally present in the United States since January 1, 1982.

Immigration remained a high-profile political issue in the early 1990s. People were less tolerant of unauthorized immigrants, who were usually in low-skilled jobs. California Governor Pete Wilson won re-election in 1994 in part by endorsing Proposition 187, an initiative that would have excluded illegal migrants from state-funded services, including public schools. Concern about immigration, terrorism, and welfare contributed to three major laws in 1996: The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (ATEDPA), the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act (EBSVERA) of 2002 required universities to keep better track of the foreign students they enrolled and heightened scrutiny of visa applicants from countries deemed sponsors of terrorism. Foreigners needing visas to enter the United States must be interviewed by consular officers abroad, and applications from most Middle Eastern countries are sent to Washington, D.C., to be checked against government databases to detect terrorists. The REAL ID Act of 2005 prohibits federal agencies from accepting drivers’ licenses issued by the 10 states that granted them to unauthorized foreigners.

Perhaps the most important change after Sept. 11 was the creation of a new cabinet agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Immigration and Naturalization Service was moved from the U.S. Department of Justice to DHS and divided into three different agencies. One focused on border enforcement and inspecting persons arriving in the United States, one oversaw enforcement of immigration laws, and the third handled applications for immigration benefits.

In Britain most immigration has been permanent. British immigration control policy has been influenced during time by different elements like the volume of dissimilar immigration, foreign policy considerations, external threats and wars. From it’s beginnings until the early twentieth century, Britain had a liberal immigration policy. Great Britain regulated immigration only twice in this period. First regulation was the 1872-1873 Alien Act. It was phrased as a temporary measure and also it was renewed at intervals until 1926. The second restriction on immigration arrived in 1848. Political instability in Europe generated a flow of political refugees, whose presence in England brought several disturbances. A good example is the 1792 case when the external threat represented by those refugees led to the approval of the Aliens Removal Act. This Act gave to the Home Secretary and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland the power to deport any foreigner against whom written allegations had been made.

Britain kept a liberal immigration policy until the early twentieth century. This policy was facilitated by the limited immigration into Britain, by the similarity between most of the immigrants and the local population and by foreign policy considerations(Smith1981). In 1905 Parliament passed the Aliens Immigration Act. One of the reasons was the unprecedented influx of Jewish immigrants. The 1905 Aliens Immigration act was administrated in a very liberal fashion by the liberal government that came into power the following year. Nevertheless, the act stayed on the books and its significance lay in the breach with the principle of the previous eighty years that Britain should be freely open to immigration from overseas. (Rees 1979). World War I produced the next restriction on immigration to Britain. In August that year, The House of Commons passed the Aliens Restriction Act. The 1914 legislation which was much tougher than the 1905 Act, gave the Home Secretary powers to prohibit the entry of immigrants and to deport them. It was the first time when aliens had to register with the police. The main object of 1914 act, as presented by the Home secretary was to secure the detention and removal of spies. It was renewed after the war by the Aliens Restriction Act of 1919. Even though during the 1920s and 1930s economic depression most of the countries restricted immigration, Britain avoided that to happen and more than that even emphasized its commitment to free migration within the Commonwealth. The direction of migration changed once Britain entered World War II and faced a shortage in manpower.

After World War II the UK government faced an unprecedented situation. Britain was no longer seen as a top world power, and the concept of Commonwealth started to replace the notion of Empire. Immigration started to be seen by politicians as a opportunity to bring back the country to its previous international status. Humanitarian solidarity of 1939-45 and sponsored immigration of the 1945-62 were perceived a bit different. In order to obtain a clear conclusion it is advised to evaluate chronologically UK government response to colored immigration. Doing this the shifts in policy over time during that specific period will be very clear underlined. The relationship between immigrants and the state remain pretty much the same even though there were changes of administration and policy. A very interesting experience for the British government was the Post-war immigration issues. No doubt that traditionally until the late 1970s the UK had been considered by many a country of net immigration. Anyway due to economic reasons immigration was actively supported as a matter of policy by the UK government starting with 1945. Two years later an independent economic survey was commissioned by the government. The results brought out that the general opinion was that, a useful contribution can be made by foreign labor. Also the survey revealed that the increasing of working population is does not have to be a temporary measure.

The newly conceived National Health Service, London Transport and British Rail brought workers from the newly opened recruitment centers in West Indies to the UK but the numbers recruited in these ventures were relatively small to begin with, so they established a nucleus of ethnicity in certain areas.

The foreign labor recommended in the 1947 government survey was not only for colored immigrants. A white core policy was instead in the minds of the authorities. In the next years following the war European immigrants were preferred to colored and the Government authorities ware scared of the workers solidarity and how it may affect the relationship with Westminster. After thirty years the records showed all the measures that were taken to

block their entry in the UK. One good example is the delaying of issuing the passport so that the colored people could not work legally in the UK and the list continues.

In the next year 1948, in The British Nationality Act it began the conceptual separation between British and Commonwealth citizenship and the UK immigration law was begging to rise. Therefore in the next years the visa restrictions for the “coloured” were taken out and an influx of blacks and Asians, approximately 14000 per annum came in the UK but , in 1962 most towns across the UK remained predominantly white only. In exception in the Wales a small numbers of “coloured” came and these people were found only in the docks of the capital.

The government authorities did not respond properly to the increased number of immigrations and the media elevated the issue to an underserved status of national importance. The individual partisan policy issues clearly played a big role in the timing and manner of the execution of immigration legislation. For example in 1959 the elections were won by the Conservatives for the third time and as the traditional centre-right party of the UK it was no surprise that they should oversee the passing of the most stringent law against ‘coloured’ immigrants, the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act. It was clear that the law could be seen as a new government policy of moving the economic market to Europe at the beginning of the 1960′, which necessitated a symbolic move away from the Commonwealth. David Childs said that Macmillan had a great success in convincing his colleagues of the need of this new “road’.In other order it was a fact that immigration legislation was motivated by external geo-strategic issues and not by the issues of numbers, facts and figures of arrivals into the country.

Besides that, the British government acknowledged that its definition of nationality as it was written in the 1948 acct was old-fashioned. This was a good opportunity te begin the second phase of post-war legislation starting with the landmark 1962 Commonwealth act. This act enforced much more tight guidelines regarding entry to to UK. Racial undertones were clearly present as the Act was centred upon immigrants from the New Commonwealth and did not concern immigration from the Old Commonwealth or Ireland.( ‘ ‘). Obviously the British state was keen to legally underline the difference between being British and being a subject of the Empire. This action took place in order to protect what it perceived as a delicate domestic balance. As Jack Watson concludes; “It was one thing to control immigration – unlimited population growth would add to Britain’s social problems – but the fierce criticism of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, both at home and abroad, centred on the argument that it was directed against immigration from the New Commonwealth and not against immigration in general.”

Yet in spite of the arrival of the concept of quotas into the political discourse regarding immigration the numbers of immigrants did not supported a huge change after 1962. Therefore, although the UK government responded to public opinion, a strong sense of ethnic superiority and political expediency, the reality of the matter remained that immigration, post 1945, was an economic and not a nationalistic issue.

After the 1997 election UK immigration policy started a new chapter. The White Paper in 1998 showed a different and modern way of handling immigration and asylum . The paper claimed that Britain has lots of advantages from legal immigration. The new strategic way of thinking has been implemented on several different levels . The liberalizing aspects were completely non politic. It was underlined the need for skilled force, the decisive proof coming from various pieces of research .

The refugee restrictions favoured by New Labour in its first item of legislation – the Asylum and Immigration Act 1999 – which involved abolition of cash benefits for asylum seekers and a strict policy of dispersal – required a public mood of deep antipathy towards this group of people to allow it to be carried through. The consequences of depriving people of the possibility of any degree of self-determination in respect of their life in the UK, and off pushing them even further out of the mainstream of ordinary life, could easily be predicted. It would result in human rights violations (particularly in relation to the right to family life), economic hardship because of grossly inadequate levels of support though the voucher scheme, and an increase in racist attacks against a group of people so widely proclaimed as being unworthy of better treatment.

The refugee support networks across the country soon came alive with accounts of how exactly these outcomes were coming about, right up to the point of serious acts of violence and even the murder of at least one asylum seeker. But no sooner was the evidence of these disastrous consequences accumulating, than a reaction to the reaction emerged amongst groups who developed sympathies with the asylum seekers. Faith groups lobbied ministers over the evidence of increasing financial hardship and the obvious suffering of refugee children. Teachers, and even police chiefs, went on record to complain against the deterioration of civil relations between ethnic groups in the school playground and the wider community. The British Medical Association expressed grave concern over the declining health of refugee communities, and the trades union movement, led by transport union leader Bill Morris, staged a revolt against the voucher scheme. Clearly, asylum seekers had their supporters and defenders, and these tended to be most vocal in the social groups which the Labour government counted upon as their key supporters.

In the early 1990, Britain stood out as a country that has reduced immigration to a unavoidable core of family reunification and asylum seekers, numbering no more than 50000 in one year. Since than, both policy an policy outcomes have reversed sharply. The labour government increased the number of work permits issued, promised to reform the Immigration act of 1971 in order to encourage primary immigration, an reevalueted citizenship through the proposed incorporation of citizenship of classes, language texts and naturalization ceremonies.

The Labour party started to rethink it’s core strategy in the 4th semester of 2001 due to a cabinet change. The new Home Secretary from that time, David Blunkett can be considered the initiator of the strategy. In the same time with the new way of Labours’s thinking, a change to a more pugnacious style of engagement with public opinion could be noted.( ).The September 11, a date that changed United Sates approach, was almost as important for UK and in the winter of 2002, a second White Paper appeared, this time punctuating the very complex issue of security. Surprisingly though, not the immigrants that were on their way coming to UK were the concern, but those who had finished their migration process recently an who believed of themselves as totally settled in Britain.

The controverter problem of the naturalisation of long-settled immigrant communities came onto centre stage as Home Secretary Blunkett sought to open up a new debate about the extent to which these groups had assimilated the distinctive values of UK society.

The background to this issue was provided by the summer riots in several northern English towns in 2001. Experts commenting on these developments opened up discussion about the absence of ‘social cohesion’ revealed by these developments. The principle complaint of one of the most influential of these commentators – Lord Herman Ousley – was that poverty and lack of resources had prevented civic and other public authorities from addressing the grave problem of racial division, which was a prominent feature of these northern cities. In the White Paper, concerns of this nature were not so subtly transformed into criticism of immigrant communities themselves, for failing to take robust action to ensure their integration into mainstream society.

Blunkett was also prepared to do more than had been done during Straw’s tutelage at the Home Office to force public discussion of economic migration. A whole chapter of the White Paper discussed the issue of ‘working in the UK’. The mood here was that government policy was allowing British employers to ‘lead the world’ in vigorous competition for the brightest and the best amongst the global workforce. The reforms to the work permit scheme of the previous 18 months were set out in detail, and the substantial increase in the volume of people entering in these categories became the badge of success. In the competition to ensure that British business had all the resources it needed to come out on top, the Labour government would not accept second place.

The White Paper thus framed the whole question of economic migration as being essentially a matter of business strategy, rather than anything to do with the rights of workers in increasingly globalised labour markets. Indeed, the White Paper wandered into the terrain of considering the clear demand for less skilled workers, and concluded that this would be dealt with by opening up channels for temporary, seasonal migration schemes, which have in practice been associated with the often ruthless exploitation of young foreign students. It is clear from the approach set out in the White Paper that those workers admitted to met local shortages in the informally-skilled sectors of tourism and hospitality industries, construction and agriculture, will not acquire such rights as family reunification, equality of treatment, or long-term settlement in the UK.

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