January 15, 2018

America didn't have illegal immigration for its first century

LA Times -For those clamoring for a wall against immigrants, it may come as a surprise to learn that there were no federal laws concerning immigration until well into the history of the United States. When people say “my ancestors came here legally,” they’re probably right. For the first century of the country’s existence, anyone could land here and walk right off the boat with no papers of any kind,. Coming here “illegally” did not even exist as a concept.

The first federal general immigration law was enacted in 1882. It prohibited from entering the U.S. “any convict, lunatic, idiot, or any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge.” In other words, unless you were physically or mentally incapable of taking care of yourself, you were in — unless you were Chinese.

That’s because the first sweeping federal restriction on immigration also came in 1882, in the form of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Troubled by the influx of Chinese workers — who helped build the transcontinental railroads, among other things — Congress enacted a wholesale ban on their further immigration that year. To enforce the ban, a bureaucracy had to be created, leading in 1891 to the establishment of the federal Bureau of Immigration, the first body charged with enforcing federal immigration law.


justsomeguy05 said...

It used to be difficult for people to emigrate. Technology has changed that.
Communications technology has caused people to realize that the area over the horizon is not so scary. That there are people there that are not SO different. Travel technology (ships, and then air travel) have made it much easier to travel to the new location. Mail & then Internet have made it much easier to "keep in touch" with loved ones.

These items along with economic dislocation have massively increased immigration - worldwide. Right wing populism and religious fundamentalism are sweeping the globe - partly fueled by "save our heritage". In the US it is easy to think that it is only a Muslim thing, but the same trends are evident in Israel (fundamentalist Jews), Europe (various versions of Christianity), and India (Hindu). In all cases that I know of (and probably many that I do not) it is right wing populism combined with religious fundamentalism. Sadly the more open minded, spiritual and "love" based aspects of each religion are being eclipsed by the judgemental hate, fear and greed based versions.
All of that, combined with globval corporate feudalism, and the numerous possibilities for significant human die-off (bioweapons, environmental devastation, malevolent AI, nukes, etc), leave me quite pessimistic about our future.

Bill Hicks said...

Yeah, and those unlimited waves of immigration worked out SO well for the Native Americans, not to mention the beautiful natural landscape. Of course, the scumbag capitalist Founding Fathers wanted unlimited immigration--someone had to do their dirty work, especially once the slaves were freed.