HISTORY OF UNITED STATES IMMIGRATION

The history begins with Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 of the Constitution of the United States. In this
section, our Founding Fathers discuss the responsibility of Congress to enact uniform laws on the
subject of naturalization. The Founding Fathers’ purpose was to unify the laws regarding naturalization
into one source, and that source was through the Congressional enactment of laws. Prior to that time,
each of the original thirteen colonies could have enacted laws but now they would be centralized into
one source. It could be argued that the regulation of naturalization is not regulation of immigration.
The other source of Federal law which regulates immigration is the right of Congress to regulate foreign
commerce.

In this countries first 100 years, from 1776 to 1885, immigration could be viewed like an open door
policy. There were no real roadblocks. In 1798, there was an alien act known as the Alien and
Sedition Laws which the President was authorized to expel any alien he deemed dangerous. This law
lasted approximately 2 years and expired. However, there is an Alien Enemies Act, which still exists to
permit the removal of alien enemies during hostilities. This can be found in 50 U.S.C. Sections 21
through 24. “U.S.C.” refers to the United States Code which really is the law as passed by Congress and
usually approved by the President. In 1819, there was some laws that were enacted to improve the
conditions on board ships. And then, in 1864, Congress passed legislation actually encouraging
immigration. It is interesting at this time in America’s history because some States sought to restrict
immigration, but the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the State laws regulating
immigration and declared them unconstitutional. This can be found in the Passenger cases, 48 U.S.(7
How.) “U.S.” stands for the United States Supreme Court cases. “How.” refers to an earlier method of
keeping track of United States Supreme Court cases.

In 1875 the first statutes for the exclusion of convicts and prostitutes was enacted. In the early 1880’s,
1882, the first Federal Immigration Law passed by Congress and included the exclusion of convicts,
lunatics and idiots and persons who were likely to become people who lived off the public trough. Also,
in 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed and this Act provided for the exclusion of Chinese
people. This lasted a long time, until 1943 when it was finally repealed. In 1885 and 1887 the
Contract Labor Laws were passed. These excluded foreign labor that was cheap where employing them
could result in depressing the labor market. In 1888 Congress had an amendment passed that
provided for the deportation of aliens entering in violation of these laws against cheap labor. In the
same period, the late 1880’s, Congress established the first Statute of Limitations for immigration by
permitting deported aliens to return after one year outside the United States.