History of US Immigration Policy Part one

Perhaps the biggest issue facing our nation over the past two decades is not our sending American troops to fight wars abroad. I would opine that it is the ongoing debate on illegal immigration, also labeled undocumented immigrants,and president Obama’s current efforts to create some form of amnesty for approximately 11 million people currently residing in the United States who entered through the back door.

While it is true that America was built by immigrants, there is a major debate on legal versus illegal (or undocumented) residents.

In an effort to resolve this issue we need to look in our rear view mirrors and revisit several congressional actions, most recently in 1986 with others that date back to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1906.

In November 1986 we passed the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, also known as the Immigration Reform and Control Act, during the tenure of president Ronald Reagan.

“In brief the [I.R.C.] act: 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 made it illegal to knowingly hire or recruit illegal immigrants (immigrants who do not possess lawful work authorization) 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.” Source. Wikipedia.

As a result of that 1986 Act approximately 2.8 million undocumented immigrants were granted legal status. Obviously, this action has not resolved the problem.

There have been several readers who have commented that we all have come to the United States from somewhere else. Therefore they allege we are all immigrants. I disagree. There is one man that I have met who is truly a native American. Damien Shilo, former chairman of the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, whose forefathers were probably here long before Columbus.

In 1910,1911 we had the Dillingham Commission which studied the consequences of immigration from European countries in the late 1890s to the early 20th century. This was attributed to our Industrial Revolution and the need for unskilled factory workers.

At this point I need to mention the Refugee Act of 1980 in which we provided asylum for 2 million refugees since 1980. The bulk of that number being the “boat people” from Viet Nam to those seeking asylum from the Balkan wars.

Stay tuned for part two of this report that will cover the Immigration Act of 1924.


About Larry Gilbert