America's Heritage: A History of Immigration

America’s Heritage: A History of U.S. Immigration is a comprehensive look at the history of American immigration and the major laws that establish U.S. immigration policy.

America is a nation of immigrants. Throughout its history, the United States of America has been a beacon of freedom and tolerance for all people. American society is enriched by the unique cultural influences and traditions that immigrants bring to this land. Without recognizing the importance of these diverse perspectives, an integral part of America’s heritage is overlooked. Indeed, during many of the most prolific moments in America, the contributions of immigrants altered the course of our nation’s history.

1492-10-12 00:00:00

Columbus' Discovery

Caption: Mr. Nice Guy? Commissioned by Spain to find a direct sea route to the Far East, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus embarked on a voyage that he hoped would lead him to the exotic lands of Asia.

1607-05-14 00:00:00

Erection of Jamestown

In 1607, English colonizers belonging to the Virginia Company of London erected Jamestown as a charter from the King of England.

1620-12-21 00:00:00

The Foundation of New Plymouth Colony

In 1620, one of the sects of Puritans known as Brownists separated from the Protestant Church of England, and after much persecution, decided to immigrate to the “new world.”

1795-01-29 00:00:00

The First Naturalization Act

In 1795, the first Naturalization Act was created to restrict citizenship to “free white persons” who resided in the United States and renounced their allegiance to their former country.

1798-01-01 00:00:00

Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798

The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 authorized the president to expel any alien he deemed dangerous.

1819-01-01 00:00:00

Passenger Vessels Regulation Act

Required masters of ships to file with the district collector of customs a manifest (or list) of all passengers who boarded at a foreign port.

1848-02-02 00:00:00

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidago

Granted U.S. citizenship to Mexicans living in the territory ceded by Mexico to the United States.

1868-07-09 00:00:00

The 14th Amendment

Guaranteed that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States...are citizens of the United States....”

1882-05-06 00:00:00

Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

Excluded all person from China from working in the U.S.

1882-08-03 00:00:00

Immigration Act of 1882

Stated that a 50 cents tax would be levied on all aliens landing at United States ports

1885-02-26 00:00:00

The Alien Contract Labor Law of 1885

Prohibited contracts by American employers for cheap foreign labor

1891-03-03 00:00:00

Immigration Act of 1891

Denied entry to “convicts (except those convicted of political offences), lunatics, idiots and persons likely to become public charges”.

1907-01-01 00:00:00

Immigration Act of 1907

Barred the feebleminded, those with physical or mental defects, those suffering from tuberculosis, children under 16 without parents, and women entering for “immoral purposes.”

1917-02-05 00:00:00

Immigration Act of 1917

The Immigration Act of 1917 expanded the classes of foreigners excluded from the United States.

1921-05-19 00:00:00

The Emergency Quota Act

In 1921, Congress established the first quota system for immigrants.

1924-05-26 00:00:00

The National Origins Act of 1924

Following World War I, the National Origins Act of 1924 further reduced quotas of immigrants deemed less desirable.

1948-06-25 00:00:00

Displaced Persons Act of 1948

Refugees from countries ravaged by World War II were allowed into the United States, but their entry was charged to the national quota limits established in 1924.

1952-06-27 00:00:00

The McCarren-Walter Act

This act established the basic structure of present immigration law.

1968-06-30 00:00:00

Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965

The next major reforms in U.S. immigration policy occurred with the passage of amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965.

1980-04-01 00:00:00

Refugee Act

Increased the number of refugees admitted to the U.S.

1986-11-06 00:00:00

Immigration Reform and Control Act

Established sanctions against employers for hiring persons unauthorized to work in the U.S. It granted legal status to long-term undocumented immigrants

1990-11-29 00:00:00

Immigration Act of 1990

Established categories of employment based immigration and placed an overall cap on the number of non-immigrant workers

1993-10-09 00:00:00

Chinese Student Protection Act of 1992

The military assault by the Chinese government on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4th 1989 inspired the Chinese Student Protection Act of 1992. The law permitted Chinese nationals temporarily residing in the United States who had arrived prior to April 1990 to adjust to permanent resident status. 26,915 Chinese persons were admitted under this provision.

1996-09-30 00:00:00

The Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996

The Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996 imposed strict penalties against illegal immigration.

2001-10-26 00:00:00

The Patriot Act

After the terrorist attacks in September of 2001, President George W. Bush signed the controversial USA Patriot Act into law on October 26, 2001, which expanded the authority of enforcement agencies to fight terrorism at home and abroad.

2006-05-01 12:07:37

Day Without Immigrants

Immigrants took to the streets to protest the proposed H.R. 4437 bill, which sought to criminalize all violations of immigration law.

2006-10-26 12:07:37

The Secure Fence Act of 2006

In an effort to “get tough” on undocumented immigrants, the Secure Fence Act of 2006 was signed into law just weeks before that year’s midterm elections.

2010-12-18 12:07:37


The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, first introduced in 2001, was reintroduced in October 2007. The Dream Act would provide undocumented high-school students an opportunity to obtain permanent residency and access to higher education. While the DREAM Act did pass in the House, it did not pass in the Senate, and thus did not become law. At least seventeen states now have laws permitting certain undocumented students who have attended and graduated from their primary and secondary schools to pay the same tuition as their classmates at public institutions of higher education. The states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

2011-07-31 00:58:13

Homeland Security Act of 2002

The Department of Homeland Security was created in response to the September 11th terrorist attacks. It encompasses 22 federal agencies US immigration Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and US immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

2012-06-12 12:07:37

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

In June of 2012, the Obama administration announced that it would accept requests for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an initiative designed to temporarily suspend the deportation of young people residing unlawfully in the U.S. who were brought to the United States as children, meet certain education requirements and generally match the criteria established under legislative proposals like the DREAM Act.

2012-06-12 12:07:37

Immigration Bills Pending in 2014

During the first session of the 113th Congress, more than half-a-dozen immigration bills were introduced in the House of Representatives, but no major immigration-related legislation had made it to the House floor by the end of 2013. The following discussion outlines some of the significant immigration bills introduced in 2013 and 2014 and provides analysis of their key points.

2014-11-20 00:58:13

Executive Action Immigration Accountability

On Nov 20, 2014 President Obama announced his plan to take administrative action on immigration, strengthening existing securities and preventing up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from being deported. Under the new policies announced, the Obama Administration will build on the successful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by providing temporary relief for the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. The new program, to be called Deferred Action for Parents (DAP), will ensure that millions of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children will remain unified with their parent.

America's Heritage: A History of Immigration

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