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.”
Congress enacted deportation laws targeting persons deemed political threats to the United States in response to conflicts in Europe.
The Haitian revolution led Congress to ban immigration by free blacks to contain anti-slavery campaigners.
During the presidency of Andrew Jackson, this law authorized the confiscation of land from Native Americans and provided resources for their forced removal west of the Mississippi River.
In the settlement of the Mexican-American War, this treaty formalized the United States' annexation of a major portion of northern Mexico, El Norte, and conferred citizenship on Mexicans choosing to remain in the territory.
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.
This California Supreme Court case ruled that the testimony of a Chinese man who witnessed a murder by a white man was inadmissible, denying Chinese alongside Native and African Americans the status to testify in courts against whites.
This Supreme Court ruling established that slaves and free African Americans were not citizens of the U.S. and were not entitled to the rights and privileges of citizenship, such as the right to sue in federal courts.
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.
President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 executive order freeing the slaves held in the Confederate states.
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similar to indentured servitude in an attempt to encourage immigration to the United States, but it was quickly repealed.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.
Ratified in 1868 to secure equal treatment for African Americans after the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed birthright citizenship for all persons born in the United States. It also provided for equal protections and due process for all legal residents.
The Naturalization Act of 1870 explicitly extended naturalization rights already enjoyed by white immigrants to “aliens of African nativity and to persons of African descent,” thus denying access to the rights and protections of citizenship to other nonwhite immigrant groups.
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 Supreme Court decision affirmed that the federal government holds sole authority to regulate immigration.
This treaty updated the 1868 Burlingame Treaty with China, allowing the United Stated to restrict the migration of certain categories of Chinese workers. It moved U.S. immigration policy closer to outright Chinese exclusion.
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."
The Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment did not apply to Native Americans who did not automatically gain citizenship by birth and could therefore be denied the right to vote.
This law banned the recruitment of workers bound by contracts.
Complaints about the reservation system for Native Americans led Congress to authorize the president to allot – or separate into individual landholdings – tribal reservation lands. Native Americans receiving allotments could gain U.S. citizenship, but often lost their land.
Congress extended domestic authority over immigration to improve enforcement of the Chinese exclusion laws. It abolished one of the exempt statuses, returning laborers, stranding about 20,000 Chinese holding Certificates of Return outside the United States.
This Supreme Court decision affirmed the plenary powers of U.S. federal authorities over immigration matters, in this instance even when changes in U.S. immigration law reversed earlier policy and practice.
Congress quickly came to realize the challenges of enforcing immigration exclusions, leading it to authorize and fund a dedicated immigration bureau responsible both for processing legal immigrants and enforcing immigration restrictions.
This 1891 immigration law clarified and centralized the immigration enforcement authority of the federal government, extended immigration inspection to land borders, and expanded the list of excludable and deportable immigrants.
Congress renewed the Chinese exclusion laws and expanded enforcement mechanisms by requiring that Chinese prove their lawful presence in the United States by carrying a Certificate of Residence, a precursor of the green card system, or be liable for detention and deportation.
This Supreme Court decision ruled as constitutional the 1892 Geary Act's requirement that Chinese residents, and only Chinese residents, carry Certificates of Residence to prove their legal entry to the United States, or be subject to detention and deportation.
Increasing immigration, mainly from southern and eastern European countries, along with a series of economic downturns fueled nativist fears and the founding of the Immigration Restriction League by three influential Harvard graduates.
This Supreme Court decision that detention by immigration authorities does not constitute a criminal punishment, affirming the lesser rights of excludable aliens.
This Supreme Court case validated racial segregation by ruling that the equal protections principles mandated by the Fourteenth Amendment could be honored with facilities that were "separate but equal."
This Supreme Court case established the precedent that any person born in the United States is a citizen by birth regardless of race or parents' status.
This law identified anarchists as targets for exclusion and made provision for their removal if detained after entry.
Congress extended the Chinese exclusion laws in perpetuity in response to the Chinese government's efforts to leverage better conditions for Chinese travelers to the United States by abrogating earlier treaties. Chinese communities organized an anti-American boycott in protest.
An international coalition of Chinese merchants and students coordinated boycotts of U.S. goods and services in China and some cities in Southeast Asia to protest the Chinese Exclusion laws.
Under the principle that women assumed the citizenship of their husbands, this act stripped citizenship from U.S.-born women when they married noncitizen immigrant men.
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.
This act enacted U.S. citizenship for Puerto Ricans after the United States acquired the island as an incorporated territory in 1898.
This act gave the executive branch greater powers to enforce immigration restrictions during World War I. It particularly targeted anarchists and other potential radicals.
The U.S. Department of Justice conducted a series of raids to round up, arrest, and deport suspected anarchists and left-wing radicals.
Fears of increased immigration after the end of World War I and the spread of radicalism propelled Congress to enact this "emergency" measure imposing drastic quantitative caps on immigration.
After women gained suffrage with the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, Congress swiftly enacted this law to restore citizenship to U.S.-born women who had married noncitizen husbands and thereby lost their citizenship under the Expatriation Act of 1907.
The hardening of U.S. isolationism set the stage for the Supreme Court to affirm the 1790 Nationality Act's stipulation that Asians are ineligible for naturalization because they are racially not "white" regardless of their demonstrated acculturation and integration.
Contradicting the logic behind its ruling in Ozawa v. U.S., the Supreme Court found that Bhagat Singh Thind was also ineligible for citizenship even though as an Asian Indian, who were as caucasians, he was racially white.
This law stipulated that all Native Americans born in the United States were automatically citizens by birth. Native Americans were the last main group to gain this right set forth in the Fourteenth Amendment.
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.
Completing the racial exclusion of Asians, Congress imposed immigration restrictions on Filipinos by granting the Philippines eventual independence. Previously, Filipinos could immigrate freely as U.S. nationals from a colony of the United States.
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.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed this war-time executive order authorizing the rounding up and incarceration of Japanese Americans living within 100 miles of the west coast.
The importance of China as the U.S. government's chief ally in the Pacific war against Japan led Congress to repeal the Chinese Exclusion laws, placing China under the same immigration restrictions as European countries.
This Supreme Court decision upheld the federal government's right to set aside civil rights protections in the name of "military necessity" in ruling on Fred Korematsu's challenge to Executive Order 9066, which authorized removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans.
In December 1944, the Supreme Court authorized the end of Japanese American incarceration by ruling that "concededly loyal" U.S. citizens could not be held, regardless of the principle of "military necessity."
Congress enacted exceptions to the national origins quotas imposed by the Immigration Act of 1924 in order to help World War II soldiers and veterans bring back foreign spouses and fiances they had met while serving in the military.
This law further undermined Asian exclusion by extending naturalization rights and immigration quotas to Filipinos and Indians as wartime allies.
Senator Fulbright of Arkansas proposed using proceeds from the sale of war surplus materials to fund programs to improve mutual understanding between the U.S. and the rest of the world through personnel exchanges and international education.
In contrast lawmakers' widespread indifference before World War II, after the war, 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.
This UN Refugee Convention set international standards for refugee rights and resettlement work. It is administered by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. Wary of international obligations, President Truman refused to sign the U.S. government on to the convention.
The McCarran-Walter Act reformed some of the obvious discriminatory provisions in immigration law. While the law provided quotas for all nations and ended racial restrictions on citizenship, it expanded immigration enforcement and retained offensive national origins quotas.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1952 authorized a nonimmigrant visa category, known as H-2, permitting the recruitment of foreign farmworkers to the United States on a temporary basis.
Dissatisfaction with the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act inspired support for this 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 from Mexico, the Immigration Bureau led round ups of Mexican nationals. The Bureau claimed to have deported one million Mexicans.
The parole authority granted the attorney-general in the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act was used three times to aid refugees fleeing communism. To avoid public outcry, each use of parole was accompanied by extensive publicity campaigns to promote acceptance.
The Immigration Bureau and the FBI used this program to try regularize the statuses of the many Chinese Americans who had entered the United States using some form of immigration fraud under the discriminatory Chinese exclusion laws.
This law added more exceptions to immigration restriction by national quotas by categorizing international adoption as a form of family reunification.
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 from the within Americas.
After Fidel Castro's revolution, anti-communist Cubans received preferential immigration conditions because they came from a historically close U.S. neighbor and ally. This law provided them permanent status and resources to help adjustment to life in the U.S.
The UNHCR issued this protocol in 1967 to implement the goals of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which set forth the key principle of refoulement, or that persons in flight from persecution and danger cannot be forced to return to places of danger.
The United States made provisions to admit about 135,000 Vietnamese and other Southeast Asians in the months following the fall of Saigon, resettle them across the United States with resources to help them establish new lives.
The 1976 Amendments extended to the Western Hemisphere a per country ceiling of 20,000 and a modified preference system for arrivals. In 1978, the law was further amended to establish a single worldwide annual ceiling of 290,000.
While adhering to the UN standard for defining refugees, this law made U.S. refugee policy more responsive to changing situations through the implementation of annual admissions quotas that could be adjusted annually after consultation between Congress and the White House.
The Mariel boatlift refers to the mass movement of approximately 125,000 Cuban asylum seekers to the United States from April to October 1980. It prompted the creation of the Cuban-Haitian Entrant Program.
This Supreme Court case ruled that public school districts cannot constitutionally refuse admission to unauthorized immigrant children because the harmful effects to the public outweighed the cost savings.
The courts vacated the 1944 Supreme Court conviction of Fred Korematsu for violating curfew orders imposed on Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
To address the problem of unauthorized immigration, Congress implemented through bipartisan agreement a multi-pronged system that provided amnesty for established residents, increased border enforcement, enhanced requirements of employers, and expanded guestworker visa programs.
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.
The regular denial of asylum applications from Salvadorans and Guatemalans fleeing violence in their homelands during the 1980s led to this legal challenge which forced changes to U.S. procedures for handling such cases.
Legislated in response to the brutal Chinese government crackdowns on student protests in Tiananmen in 1989, this law permitted Chinese students living in the United States to gain legal permanent status.
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.
The Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) allowed certain Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans who had fled violence and poverty in their homelands in the 1980s to file for asylum and remain in the United States.
The Flores settlement resulted from the 1993 Supreme Court case Reno v. Flores, regarding the treatment of unaccompanied minors in immigration detention. The settlement, currently being challenged, set federal standards for the treatment and release of children in detention.
Under the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA), enacted by Congress on Oct. 21, 1998, certain Haitian nationals who had been residing in the United States could become legal permanent residents.
This Supreme Court case ruled that immigration authorities cannot indefinitely detain aliens ordered deported, but for whom no destination can be arranged.
After the attacks of September 11th, the U.S. government acted to expand the budget, staffing, and powers of the immigration enforcement bureaucracy.
The Homeland Security Act created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by consolidating 22 diverse agencies and bureaus. The creation of DHS reflected mounting anxieties about immigration in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11th.
Passed in October 2006, this law mandated that the Secretary of Homeland Security act quickly to achieve operational control over U.S. international land and maritime borders including an expansion of existing walls, fences, and surveillance.
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.
The "Muslim Ban" refers to a series of the Trump administration's executive orders that prohibited travel and refugee resettlement from select predominately Muslim countries. After several legal challenges, the Supreme Court upheld most provisions of a third version of the ban.
In 2019, the Trump administration's Department of Homeland Security finalized a rule that expanded the list of received benefits and other factors to be considered in determining whether an applicant for admission or adjustment of status is likely to become a public charge.