Labor and Economic Priorities
Labor organizations, employers, and immigrant communities have long contested immigration policy based on their disparate economic interests. Beginning with the Chinese Exclusion Law, the earliest actively enforced immigration restriction, racial and class hierarchies were reproduced in immigration policy, as debates over immigration exclusion unfolded within the context of an emerging industrial capitalist economy. U.S. workers and organized labor sought to diminish perceived unfair and unwelcome labor competition. Accordingly, Chinese Exclusion chiefly targeted Chinese laborers, who were frequently employed in large-scale mining, construction, and agricultural operations on the West Coast, while protecting entry rights for Chinese merchants in order to maintain trade. Other early exclusionary policies barred the entry of contract workers who were seen as unfair competition to U.S. workers because they were restricted from changing employers, and poor immigrants who were viewed as potential burdens on public resources (LPC).
The goal of protecting domestic workers through immigration restrictions constantly conflicted with the demands of large-scale employers such as agricultural corporations, manufacturers, railroads, and construction businesses for a low-wage, flexible labor force with fewer protections. Although immigration law in the early twentieth-century placed broad restrictions on the immigration of low-wage workers and families from Europe and Asia, employers successfully promoted legal exceptions for immigrants with special skills, education, and training. Since 1952, general immigration law has privileged immigration by persons with needed skills, often defined as persons in technical and scientific fields. Meanwhile, agricultural interests continued to employ Mexican workers and others from the Western Hemisphere, which did not fall under the broad restrictions of immigration law. Often under the auspices of guest worker programs, Mexicans became the chief source of disposable labor with millions recruited to work during times of need, then subject to round up and deported during economic contractions (1929-35, Operation Wetback). The bracero program (1943-64) formalized this relationship with a system of three-year contracts intended to admit much needed workers on a temporary basis with no path to citizenship. The smaller H-2 guest worker program also brought in tens of thousands of Caribbean agricultural workers from the 1950s to the 1980s, when lawmakers split it into two separate guest worker programs for agricultural (the H-2A program) and non-agricultural work (the H-2B program) with the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. Today, employers rely on the deportability of both guest workers and undocumented workers to perpetuate low wages and undermine labor with the highest numbers clustered in domestic service, agriculture, and construction, [Most common immigrant jobs by state, 2013] those without special skills and education or investment capital are denied legal immigration and a path to citizenship.
The competing priorities of labor and capital have long shaped immigration law and produced sometimes contradictory outcomes in immigration policy. As early as 1790, socioeconomic standing was a consideration for gaining citizenship by naturalization with the first Nationality Act restricting such rights to property owners. When the United States began systematically restricting immigration in 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Law, it chiefly targeted “coolie” workers as unfair and racially inferior competition for U.S. laborers while maintaining entry rights for Chinese merchants to protect U.S. trade relations with China. Lawmakers restricted the immigration of poor people, who were deemed likely to become public charges (LPC). The 1885 Foran Act banned entry of contract workers, a priority of organized labor as these workers were more exploitable and were prohibited by their contracts from changing employers. Laws to protect U.S. workers, however, were poorly enforced and U.S. employers such as agricultural interests, manufacturers, railroads, service industries, and construction businesses continued to hire noncitizen workers through exceptions to immigration restrictions and guest worker programs and by hiring undocumented workers.
While restricting so-called “unskilled” immigrant workers and their families, immigration law has also long privileged the entry of investors and “skilled” workers with specialized educational credentials or skills. As early as the 1850s, Californians had pushed to limit Chinese immigration even as business interests, missionaries, the White House, and the State Department sought to maintain amicable relations with China. Organized labor groups campaigned against the Chinese as racially inferior and inassimilable, even resorting to violence. When enacted, the Chinese Exclusion Act provided exemptions for merchants, students, diplomats, and tourists whose presence in the United States served to advance business and friendly foreign relations. Similarly, the 1917 Immigration Act imposed a literacy requirement on new immigrants while welcoming persons from “any recognized learned profession” such as nurses, professors, or ministers. In 1921 and 1924, Congress succeeded in dramatically reducing the numbers of poor, working-class immigrants from eastern and southern Europe several-fold through a system of annual entry quotas that discriminated on the basis of national origins.
Migration within the Americas remained unrestricted so that immigrants from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean continued to enter and work in the United States. To promote good relations in the Western Hemisphere and allay employers’ demands, immigrants from the Americas did not fall under the quota system. Additionally, the bracero program and the H-2 guest worker program began during the labor shortages of World War II and pioneered the practice of admitting agricultural and other low-wage workers from Mexico and the Caribbean on temporary visas. The 1952 McCarran-Walter Act added a preference system that prioritized immigrants with special skills while also extending quotas to all countries in the world and institutionalizing war-time guest worker programs.
The national origins quota system remained in place until the 1965 Immigration Act made family reunification the cornerstone of future immigration. Outside of family immigration, the 1965 Immigration Act prioritized the immigration of “skilled” workers, thereby increasing immigration by highly educated immigrants. The 1965 Immigration Act gave all countries the same immigration quota of 20,000 (now about 26,000) and provided three pathways to legal immigration with 75 percent of immigrant visas designated for family reunification, 20 percent for “skilled” employment, and 5 percent for refugees. While lawmakers intended this new system to impose equality in immigration entry, it also placed for the first time numeric limits on immigration within the Western Hemisphere which has fostered the growth of unauthorized immigration from the U.S.’s nearest neighbors.
Although the emphasis on family reunification seemed to favor European immigrants at a time when 85 percent of the U.S. population was white, those immigrants most motivated by economic and political instability came from Asia, Africa, central and south America. Immigrants from countries with low levels of prior immigration disproportionately arrived through the employment preferences which require the sponsorship of an employer and certification by the Department of Labor. These systems favor the highly educated employed with certifiable skills in fields designated as needed in the United States, chiefly in the sciences and technology. These changes in law have had a transformative impact in diversifying the U.S. population while elevating the socioeconomic attainment of certain populations. They have also created a huge backlog of potential immigrants who have fallen outside of country immigration quotas and limited opportunities for legal immigration from countries of origin that have historically provided immigrant workers to U.S. businesses, like Mexico.
In 1986, responding to the increasingly politicized issue of unauthorized immigration, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). IRCA sought to address undocumented immigration by sanctioning employers who hired undocumented workers, increasing funding to the Border Patrol, and regularizing the immigration statuses of long-term undocumented immigrants. To secure the support of agricultural interests, which were dependent upon undocumented labor, IRCA included both a streamlined legalization process for farmworkers and an expanded guest worker program with no numeric restrictions to meet future potential labor shortages. The new visa program for agriculture, called the H-2A program, was proposed alongside the H-2B program, for nonagricultural seasonal work, to solidify business support for the bill.
Nevertheless, because IRCA maintained restrictions on future immigration and employers continued to seek foreign workers outside the law to avoid government regulation, undocumented immigration to the United States continued. Today, some 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States, many of whom enter legally with temporary visas and find employment and remain but are subject to exploitation and criminalization. In more recent decades, organized labor has shifted its positions on immigration toward supporting a path to citizenship for undocumented workers and protecting immigrants from deportation and employer abuses, while maintaining its opposition to potentially exploitative guest worker programs.
Meanwhile, since 1965, the legal entry of immigrants from Asia, Africa, and other previously excluded regions has greatly diversified the U.S. population and reshaped labor markets. Because such high percentages are screened for admission by the employment preferences, Asian immigrants and communities have often been viewed as a “model minority” in U.S. political discourse. Although refugee admissions after the Vietnam War contributed to this diversity and have produced almost entirely new communities of Southeast Asians who often struggle economically, they are not as visible because far higher numbers of South Asians, Chinese, Filipinos, Taiwanese, and Koreans arrive through the employment preference. Since 2005, the group with the highest average levels of educational attainment are African immigrants. However, because their numbers are low compared to the aggregated African American population, their educational attainments are not as visible as those attributed to Asians.
Changes to immigration law in the 1990s perpetuated both the “model minority” characteristics of certain immigrant populations and the further criminalization of others. The Immigration Act of 1990 enacted the H-1B guest worker visa program for “skilled workers” who, unlike those in the H-2A or H2-2B programs, can access a pathway to citizenship if sponsored by their employers. Most H-1B recipients work in the computer industry and come from Asia, particularly India and China. The act also created the EB-5 immigrant visa for investors and entrepreneurs who commit to investing over $1 million and create employment for 10 legal residents or citizens of the United States. Over 80 percent of the roughly 10,000 annual visa recipients come from China. In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) expanded upon IRCA to allocate more powers and resources to federal authorities to enforce immigration restrictions by increasing funding for border policing and for verification of employment credentials. These restrictions disproportionately targeted Latino communities and immigrants, contributing to the growth of immigration detention, and enabled employers to use immigration enforcement as a threat against workers who attempted to organize to improve their situations. Political debates continue unabated today concerning the failure of immigration laws to encompass U.S. labor needs, the labor rights of immigrants, employers’ demands for foreign workers, and immigration enforcement.
Title: The Chicken and the Egg: Economic Anxiety and Immigration Policy
Objective/Essential Question: What causes economic anxiety, and what policies tend to be enacted as a result?
Introduction/Hook: To help define the term ‘economic anxiety’ and consider its ramifications in the current political climate, students can watch this clip from Full Frontal with Samantha Bee discussing the racial overtones in the typical media coverage of the working class, and/or this clip from PBS about working class voters in 2016. Teachers can then facilitate a class discussion about how this anxiety is currently affecting immigration policy.
Activity 1: Primary Source Analysis
- Students will be split into at least 3 groups, and will receive one of two source packets (See Appendix A) that address one of two historic time periods where there were economic arguments used to justify immigration policies. Each group will analyze the documents in their assigned packet (See Appendix A), before answering the following questions:
- Q1: How did supporters of immigration policies justify their preferred course of action?
- Q2: What were the underlying motivations for their policies?
- Q3: What was the result of their policies?
Activity 2: Chicken and the Egg
- In groups, students will create a visual representation of the following:
- An ‘egg’ whose shell is representative of their answer to question Q1, and whose inside is representative of their answer to question Q2.
- A ‘chicken’ who is representative of their answer to Q3.
Activity 3: Sharing
- Groups will present their chicken and egg representations to the class by referring to evidence collected during their primary source analysis
- While watching other groups’ presentations, students will create a list arguments, motivations, and results that seem to overlap.
Activity 4: Exit Ticket
- Students will answer the questions: What are the real causes of economic anxiety, and what immigration policies do you support as a result?
Activity 5: Extension
- Students can bring in their own current event articles that address current arguments about economics and immigration and perform the same analysis. They could then decide on a course of action to make clear the underlying motivations and results of these arguments and take action to promote a current course of action that avoids the deleterious effects of these historical precedents.
Beginning with the most menial avocations they gradually invaded our industry they gradually invaded one industry after another until they not merely took the places of our girls as domestics and cooks, the laundry of our poorer white women, but the places of the men and boys, as boot and shoemakers, cigarmakers, bagmakers, miners, farm laborers, brickmakers, tailors, slippermakers, etc. In the ladies’ furnishing line they have absolute control, displacing hundreds of our girls, who would otherwise find profitable employment. Whatever business or trade they enter is doomed for the white laborer, as competition is surely impossible. Not that the Chinese would not rather work for high wages than low, but in order to gain control he will work so cheaply as to bar all efforts of his competitor. But not only has the workingman gained this bitter experience, but the manufacturers and merchants have equally been the sufferers. The Chinese laborer will work cheaper for a Chinese employer than he will for a white man, as has been invariably proven, and, as a rule, he boards with his Chinese employer. The Chinese merchant or manufacturer will undersell his white confrere, and if uninterrupted will finally gain possession of the entire
Their ability to subsist and thrive under conditions which would mean starvation and suicide to the cheapest laborer of Europe secures to them an advantage which baffles the statesman and economist to overcome, how much less the chances of the laborers pitted in competition against them.
Fri Feb 28th 1879
The Chinese must not be blamed because other men have no work. It is not their fault. If merchants carried on business according to their means, with their own capital, and paid 100¢ on the dollar instead of failing and going through bankruptcy, then laboring men would have plenty of steady work. The failure of one firm involves others connected with it, which also fail and throw many men out of employment.
As it stands now, it is 5000 Caucassians [sic] to 1 Mongolian, yet you charge the Chinamen when robbing you of work. I ask God to forbid that Senator Blaine should fear the odds of 1 to 5000.
To add to our misery and despair, a bloated aristocracy has sent to China—the greatest and oldest despotism in the world—for a cheap working slave. It rakes the slums of Asia to find the meanest slave on earth—the Chinese coolie—and imports him here to meet the free American in the Labor market, and still further widen the breach between the rich and the poor, still further to degrade white Labor.
These cheap slaves fill every place. Their dress is scant and cheap. Their food is rice from China. They hedge twenty in a room, ten by ten. They are wipped curs, abject in docility, mean, contemptible and obedient in all things. They have no wives, children or dependents.
They are imported by companies, controlled as serfs, worked like slaves, and at last go back to China with all their earnings. They are in every place, they seem to have no sex. Boys work, girls work; it is all alike to them.
Source 5: “Veto of the Chinese Exclusion Act” (4/4/1882) Chester A. Arthur, President of the United States. The act was eventually signed by Arthur after the term of exclusion was lowered to 10 years.
Our intercourse with China is of recent date. Our first treaty with that power is not yet forty years old. It is only since we acquired California and established a great seat of commerce on the Pacific that we may be said to have broken down the barriers which fenced in that ancient Monarchy. The Burlingame treaty naturally followed. Under the spirit which inspired it many thousand Chinese laborers came to the United States. No one can say that the country has not profited by their work. They were largely instrumental in constructing the railways which connect the Atlantic with the Pacific. The States of the Pacific Slope are full of evidences of their industry. Enterprises profitable alike to the capitalist and to the laborer of Caucasian origin would have lain dormant but for them. A time has now come when it is supposed that they are not needed, and when it is thought by Congress and by those most acquainted with the subject that it is best to try to get along without them. There may, however, be other sections of the country where this species of labor may be advantageously employed without interfering with the laborers of our own race.
In making the proposed experiment it may be the part of wisdom as well as of good faith to fix the length of the experimental period with reference to this fact.
Experience has shown that the trade of the East is the key to national wealth and influence. The opening of China to the commerce of the whole world has benefited no section of it more than the States of our own Pacific Slope. The State of California, and its great maritime port especially, have reaped enormous advantages from this source.
The Chinese exclusion laws were passed to appease laborers with whom the Chinese did not and could not compete. The Chinese, then as now, were mostly employed as agriculturists and in the performance of work which an American would not do. No American wishes to do menial drudgery, and it is in commendation of his character that he spurns this kind of service.
The people who wanted, or pretended to want, to do Chinese labor were not Americans, but European foreigners, persons who had but recently parted with conditions in their native countries not better than those which the Chinaman had left in his, and who no sooner reached America than they joined in the clamor against extending to the people of the Pacific that free access to the country which they themselves had just enjoyed upon the Atlantic.
In a sanitary point of view Chinatown presents a singular anomaly. With the habits, manners, customs and whole economy of life violating every accepted rule of hygiene; with open cesspools, exhalations from water-closets, sinks, urinals, and sewers tainting the atmosphere with noxious vapors and stifling odors; with people herded and packed in damp cellars, living literally the life of vermin, badly fed and clothed, addicted to the daily use of opium to the extent that many hours each day or night are passed in the delirious stupefaction of it of its influence, it is not to be denied that, as a whole, the general health of this locality compares more favorably with other sections of the city which are surrounded by more favorable conditions.
Appendix – Source Packet 2 (Bracero Program and Operation Wetback)
Source 1: Agreement of August 4, 1942 For the Temporary Migration of Mexican Agricultural Workers to the United States as Revised on April 26, 1943, by an Exchange of Notes Between the American Embassy at Mexico City and the Mexican Ministry for Foreign A
. . . 2) Mexicans entering the United States as result of this understanding shall not suffer discriminatory acts of any kind in accordance with the Executive Order No. 8802 issued at the White House June 25, 1941.
3) Mexicans entering the United States under this understanding shall enjoy the guarantees of transportation, living expenses and repatriation established in Article 29 of the Mexican Federal Labor Law as follows:
. . . 4) Mexicans entering the United States under this understanding shall not be employed to displace other workers, or for the purpose of reducing rates of pay previously established.
In order to implement the application of the general Principles mentioned above the following specific clauses are established:
. . . Wages and Employment
. . . a. (1)Wages to be paid the worker shall be the same as those paid for similar work to other agricultural laborers under the same conditions within the same area, in the respective regions of destination. Piece rates shall be so set as to enable the worker of average ability to earn the prevailing wage. In any case wages for piece work or hourly work will not be less than 30 cents per hour.
- (2)On the basis of prior authorization from the Mexican Government salaries lower than those established in the previous clause may be paid those emigrants admitted into the United States as members of the family of the worker under contract and who, when they are in the field, are able also to become agricultural laborers but who, by their condition of age or sex, cannot carry out the average amount of ordinary work.
. . . g. The Mexican workers will be furnished without cost to them with hygienic lodgings, adequate to the physical conditions of the region of a type used by a common laborer of the region and the medical and sanitary services enjoyed also without cost to them will be identical with those furnished to the other agricultural workers in the regions where they may lend their services.
Unlike comparable poor permanent residents of chronically low-income areas, the deplorable conditions under which migratory agricultural laborers often live and work are brought into clear relief by the fact that they spend much of their time living in relatively prosperous agricultural communities. The contrast thus revealed between the living standards of migrants and the regular residents of the communities is a little too much for even the strong American stomach.
These diverse groups, the Mexican immigrants and their children on the one hand and the Spanish Americans on the other, sundered as they are by mutual dislike, nevertheless share certain traits and conditions which draw them together. Certain of these have already been enumerated: language, Catholicism, poverty, a resentment of racial discrimination. There are others.
. . . Before any program of intercultural education can be contemplated, [Latin] Americans must be educated in American values. Before they can become a link between the Americas, they must be brought flush with the civilization in which they live. The difficulties of educating the people of this minority to full participation in the affairs of the nation are bewildering in their number and dimensions. Their present status is a vicious downward spiral of ignorance, apathy, poverty, squalor, antiquated agricultural methods, badly balanced diets, shrinking and impoverished fields, resentment against discrimination, lack of confidence rooted in a feeling of inferiority, and exploitation by their own political leaders. They are apathetic because of their diet; because of their apathy they neglect their crops. Every phase entails another. Where to begin?
Their children, taught to speak Spanish from the cradle, do not flourish in schools where the medium of instruction is fixed by law as English. They find themselves from one to three years behind English-speaking pupils in comprehension and achievement. From the fifth grade on they quit in numbers every year. If they persist through high school and college, even then they face the question of racial discrimination.
But through the inter-governmental recruiting of workers was begun as a wartime measure, and though the contracting of Nationals did drop in the years immediately after World War II, the program itself continued. In recent years recruitment of workers below the border has been booming. Since the war, the legal provisions for such migration have been renewed in successive agreements, the latest of which was announced on December 27, 1955.
. . . .
It has been frankly admitted by Mexican writers and students of the program that during the early years these important commitments [to protect the labor and civil rights of braceros] were very often forgotten. Non-compliance with the explicit rights of braceros can be explained on a number of plausible grounds. The program was novel and there was little recorded experience to point the way. New men had to be trained for unfamiliar tasks in a delicate and sometimes tricky area of international relations. The emphasis was on production, at least until the strain of war had passed. The mechanics of recruiting, transportation and contracting required agencies that had to be created from scratch when the program was launched.
The Forum has always opposed wetback labor because it depresses wages, forcing native citizens to seek employment elsewhere over the state and nation.
It is not a matter of whether the labor unions want dues and certainly has nothing to do with what the reds and picks want. It is simply a matter of wages paid the wetback and the displaced population which suffers from it.
[Newspaper clipping] “Aim Said to be Cutting Piece Rates; Imperial Valley Grower Denies Accusation
By Ruben Salazar
A five-month investigation of reported abuses in the bracero program has produced information that at least one Imperial Valley grower allegedly has falsified records, the U.S. Department of Labor charged Thursday.
Glenn E. Brockway, regional director of the Labor Department’s Bureau of Employment Security, told the Times the R.T. Englund Corp. reported Mexican nationals to have worked longer than they actually did.
This, if true, Brockway said, “drives piece rates down.”
How adding to the work hours of a bracero could drive piece rates down might be explained this way:
A bracero working piece rate at 22 cents a carton of lettuce might pick 60 cartons in six hours. This would be $13.20 for the six hours or $2.20 an hour. If the grower falsifies his records and says the bracero earned $13.20 in 10 hours this shows the hourly rate as $1.32.
This was the first law to define eligibility for citizenship by naturalization and establish standards and procedures by which immigrants became US citizens. In this early version, Congress limited this important right to “free white persons.”
The Supreme Court designates the authority to legislate and to enforce immigration restrictions a matter of federal authority rather than a state or local power.
During the Civil War, the Republican-controlled Congress sought to prevent southern plantation owners from replacing their enslaved African American workers with unfree contract or "coolie" laborers from China.
This law legalized labor recruitment practices similar to indentured servitude in an attempt to encourage immigration to the United States, but it was quickly repealed.
Negotiated during construction of the Transcontinental Railroad which relied heavily on Chinese labor, this international agreement secured US access to Chinese workers by guaranteeing rights of free migration to both Chinese and Americans.
This program sent about 120 Chinese students to study in New England and is often cited as a pioneering effort in mutually beneficial systems of international education which promoted the sharing of knowledge and understanding and improved international relations.
This law prohibited the recruitment to the United States of unfree laborers and women for “immoral purposes” but was enforced primarily against Chinese.
This law was a major shift in U.S. immigration policy toward growing restrictiveness. The law targeted Chinese immigrants for restriction--the first such group identified by race and class for severely limited legal entry and ineligibility for citizenship.
Legislated a few months after the Chinese Exclusion Law, this immigration legislation expanded the ranks of excludable aliens to include other undesirable persons and attributes such as "convicts," "lunatics," and "those likely to become a public charge."
This law banned the recruitment of workers bound by contracts.
Rather than enacting racially discriminatory and offensive immigration laws, President Theodore Roosevelt sought to avoid offending the rising world power of Japan through this negotiated agreement by which the Japanese government limited the immigration of its own citizens.
Congress funded this high-level commission to research the causes and impact of recent immigration to build support for significant restrictions on European immigration. The commission produced a 41-volume study in 1911.
California, along with many other western states, enacted laws that banned "aliens ineligible for citizenship" from owning or leasing land. The Supreme Court upheld these laws as constitutional.
Although this law is best known for its creation of a “barred zone” extending from the Middle East to Southeast Asia from which no persons were allowed to enter the United States, its main restriction consisted of a literacy test intended to reduce European immigration.
To further limit immigration, this law established extended "national origins" quotas, a highly restrictive and quantitatively discriminatory system. The quota system would remain the primary means of determining immigrants' admissibility to the United States until 1965.
Immigration within the American hemisphere remained uncapped until 1965; however, in 1924 Congress authorized funding for the Border Patrol to regulate crossings occurring between immigration stations.
During the economic and political crises of the 1920s and 1930s, the Border Patrol launched several campaigns to detain Mexicans, including some U.S.-born citizens, and expel them across the border.
Blease's Law criminalized crossing the border outside an official port of entry. Primarily designed to restrict Mexican immigration, the law made “unlawfully entering the country” a misdemeanor and returning after a deportation a felony.
During World War II, the U.S. government negotiated with the Mexican government to recruit Mexican workers, all men and without their families, to work on short-term contracts on farms and in other war industries. After the war, the program continued in agriculture until 1964.
In contrast to widespread indifference before World War II, after the war and under pressure from the White House and Department of State, Congress authorized admissions for refugees from Europe and permitted asylum seekers already in the U.S. to regularize their status.
The McCarran-Walter Act attempted to reform the obvious discriminations in immigration law dating to 1924. However, it retained the offensive national origins quotas even though it now provided quotas for all nations and ended the racial restriction on citizenship.
Dissatisfaction with the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act provided fuel for this refugee legislation which provided 214,000 visas to refugees, primarily from Europe but with 5,000 designated for the Far East.
Even as the bracero program continued to recruit temporary workers, the Immigration Bureau enacted these round ups and claimed to have deported one million Mexicans.
This law opened the door to immigration by highly skilled workers from countries with low immigration quotas, anticipating the Immigration Act of 1965's emphasis on employment preferences.
This law set the main principles for immigration regulation still enforced today. It applied a system of preferences for family reunification (75 percent), employment (20 percent), and refugees (5 percent) and for the first time capped immigration within the Americas.
Seeking to resolve the growing problem of unauthorized immigration, Congress acted through bipartisan agreement to a three-pronged solution that provided amnesty for established residents, greater border enforcement, and enhanced requirements of employers.
Congress revised the Immigration Act of 1965 by implementing the H-1B visa program for skilled temporary workers, with some provisions for conversion to permanent status, and the diversity visa lottery for populations unable to enter through the preference system.
Building on the steps taken with IRCA in 1986, IIRIRA further empowered federal authorities to enforce immigration restrictions by adding resources for border policing and for verification of employment credentials.
Trying to cope with the long-term residence of millions of unauthorized immigrants, this executive order provided protection from deportation and work authorization to persons who arrived as minor children and had lived in the United States since June 15, 2007.
This executive order issued by the Obama White House sought to defer deportation and some other protections for unauthorized immigrants whose children were either American citizens or lawful permanent residents.