The history of immigration to the United States details the movement of people to the United States starting with the first European settlements from around 1600. Beginning around this time, British and other Europeans settled primarily on the east coast. In 1619, Africans began being imported as slaves. The United States experienced successive waves of immigration, particularly from Europe. Immigrants sometimes paid the cost of transoceanic transportation by becoming indentured servants after their arrival in the New World. Later, immigration rules became more restrictive; the ending of numerical restrictions occurred in 1965. Recently, cheap air travel has increased immigration from Asia and Latin America.
Attitudes towards new immigrants have cycled between favorable and hostile since the 1790s.
In 1607 the first successful English colony settled in Jamestown, Virginia. Once tobacco was found to be a profitable cash crop, many plantations were established along the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and Maryland.
Thus began the first and longest era of immigration, lasting until the American Revolution in 1775; during this time settlements grew from initial English toe-holds from the New World to British America. It brought Northern European immigrants, primarily of British, German, and Dutch extraction. The British ruled from the mid-17th century and they were by far the largest group of arrivals, remaining within the British Empire. Over 90% of these early immigrants became farmers.
Large numbers of young men and women came alone as indentured servants. Their passage was paid by employers in the colonies who needed help on the farms or in shops. Indentured servants were provided food, housing, clothing and training but they did not receive wages. At the end of the indenture (usually around age 21) they were free to marry and start their own farms.
Seeking religious freedom in the New World, one hundred English Pilgrims established a small settlement near Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. Tens of thousands of English Puritans arrived, mostly from the East Anglian parts of England (Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex), as well as Kent and East Sussex., and settled in Boston, Massachusetts and adjacent areas from around 1629 to 1640 to create a land dedicated to their religion. The earliest New English colonies, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, were established along the northeast coast. Large scale immigration to this region ended before 1700, though a small but steady trickle of later arrivals continued.
The New English colonists were the most urban and educated of all their contemporaries, and they had many skilled farmers, tradesmen and craftsmen among them. They started the first university, Harvard, in 1635 in order to train their ministers. They mostly settled in small villages for mutual support (nearly all of them had their own militias) and common religious activities. Shipbuilding, commerce, agriculture, and fishing were their main sources of income. New England's healthy climate (the cold winters killed the mosquitoes and other disease-bearing insects), small widespread villages (minimizing the spread of disease), and an abundant food supply resulted in the lowest death rate and the highest birth rate of any of the colonies. The Eastern and Northern frontier around the initial New England settlements was mainly settled by the descendants of the original New Englanders. Immigration to the New England colonies after 1640 and the start of the English Civil War decreased to less than 1% (about equal to the death rate) in nearly all of the years prior to 1845. The rapid growth of the New England colonies (approximately 900,000 by 1790) was almost entirely due to the high birth rate (>3%) and the low death rate (<1%) per year.
The Dutch, primarily driven by the United East Indian Company, first established settlements along the Hudson River in New York starting about 1626. Wealthy Dutch patroons set up large landed estates along the Hudson River and brought in farmers who became renters. Others established rich trading posts to trade with Native Americans and started cities such as New Amsterdam (now New York City) and Albany, New York. After the British took over and renamed the colony New York, Germans (from the Palatinate), and Yankees (from New England) began arriving.
Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware formed the middle colonies. Pennsylvania was settled by Quakers from Britain, followed by Ulster Scots (Northern Ireland) on the frontier and numerous German Protestant sects, including the German Palatines. The earlier colony of New Sweden had small settlements on the lower Delaware River, with immigrants of Swedes and Finns. These colonies were absorbed by 1676.
The middle colonies' were scattered West of New York City (established 1626; taken over by the English in 1664) and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (established 1682). The initial Dutch colony of New York had the most eclectic collection of residents from many different nations and prospered as a major trading and commercial center after about 1700. From around 1680 to 1725, the Pennsylvania colonial center was dominated by the Quakers for decades after they emigrated, mainly from the North Midlands of England. During this time, the main commercial center of Philadelphia was run mostly by prosperous Quakers, supplemented by many small farming and trading communities, with a strong German contingent located in several small towns in the Delaware River valley.
Starting around 1680, when Pennsylvania was founded, many more settlers arrived to the middle colonies. Many Protestant sects were encouraged to settle there for freedom of religion and good, cheap land. Their origins were about 60% British and 33% German. By 1780, New York's population were around 27% descendants of Dutch settlers, about 6% were African, and the remainder were mostly English with a wide mixture of other Europeans. New Jersey, and Delaware had a British majority, with 7–11% German-descendants, about 6% African population, and a small contingent of the Swedish descendants of New Sweden.
The colonial frontier was mainly settled from about 1717 to 1775. These were mostly Presbyterian settlers from North England border lands, Scotland, and Ulster, fleeing hard times and religious persecution. The fourth major center of settlement was the Western frontier, located in the Western parts of Pennsylvania and in the South, which was settled during the early to late 18th century by mostly Scots-Irish, with others mostly from North England border lands. Some French Huguenots and Germans were also present. Between 250,000 and 400,000 Scotch-Irish migrated to America in the 18th century. The Scotch-Irish soon became the dominant culture of the Appalachians from Pennsylvania to Georgia. Areas where people reported 'American' ancestry were the places where, historically, northern English, Scottish and Scotch-Irish Protestants settled: in the interior of the South, and the Appalachian region. Scotch-Irish American immigrants, were made up of people from the southernmost counties of Scotland who had initially settled in Ireland. They were heavily Presbyterian, and largely self-sufficient. The Scotch-Irish arrived in large numbers during the early 18th century and they often preferred to settle in the back country and the frontier from Pennsylvania to Georgia, where they mingled with second generation and later English settlers. They enjoyed the very cheap land and independence from established governments common to frontier settlements. Often, the main port of entry for these immigrants was Philadelphia, after which they (or, in many cases, their descendants) migrated west and south.
The mostly agricultural Southern English colonies initially had very high death rates for new settlers due to malaria, yellow fever, and other diseases as well as skirmishes with Native Americans. Despite this, a steady flow of new settlers, mostly from Central England and the London area, kept up population growth. Initially, the large plantations were mostly owned by friends (mostly minor aristocrats) of the British-appointed governors. A group of Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highlanders created a settlement at Cape Fear in North Carolina, which remained culturally distinct until the mid-18th century, at which point it was swallowed up by the dominant English-origin culture. Many settlers arrived as indentured servants who had to work off their passage with five to seven years of work for room and board, clothing, and training, but no cash wages. After their terms of indentures expired, most of the indentures settled small farms on the frontier. The Southern colonies were about 55% British, 38% Black, and roughly 7% German. The Atlantic slave trade primarily ceased after 1775 and it was outlawed in 1808, although some slaves were smuggled in afterwards.
After 1630, the initial areas of settlement had been largely cleared of Native Americans by major outbreaks of measles, smallpox, and bubonic plague beginning decades before the settlers began arriving in large numbers. The leading killer was smallpox, which arrived in the New World around 1510–1530.
While the thirteen colonies differentiated in how they were settled and by whom, they had many commonalities. Nearly all were settled and financed by privately organized British settlers or families using free enterprise without any significant English Royal or Parliamentary government support or input. Nearly all commercial activity was run in small, privately owned businesses with good credit both at home and in England, which was essential since they were often cash poor. Most settlements were nearly independent of British trade since they grew or made nearly everything they needed; the average cost of imports per household was 5–15 pounds per year. Most settlements were created by complete family groups with several generations often present. The population was typically rural, with close to 80% owning the land they lived and farmed on. After 1700, as the Industrial Revolution progressed, more of the population started to move to cities, much like what had happened in Britain. Initially, the Dutch and German Americans primarily spoke dialects brought over from Europe, while English was the main trade language. Governments and laws primarily copied the English. The only major British institution to be abandoned was the aristocracy, noted by nearly universal absence. The settlers generally established their own popularly elected governments and courts on as many levels as they could and were nearly all, within a few years, self-governing, self-supporting, and self-replicating. This self-ruling pattern became so ingrained that almost all new settlements would have their own government up and running shortly after arrival for the next 200 years.
After the colonies were initially settled, their population growth was made up almost entirely of natural growth with foreign-born immigrant populations rarely exceeding 10% (except in isolated instances). The last significant colonies to be settled primarily by immigrants were Pennsylvania (1680s+), the Carolinas (1663+), and Georgia (1732+). Even here the immigrants came mostly from England and Scotland with the exception of a large Germanic contingent to Pennsylvania. Elsewhere internal American migration from other colonies provided nearly all of the settlers for each new colony or state. Populations grew by about 80% at a 3% "natural" annual growth rate sustained over a 20-year interval.
Over half of all new British immigrants in the South initially arrived as indentured servants. They were mostly poor young people who could not find work in England and could not afford passage to America. In addition, about 60,000 British convicts were transported to the British colonies in the 18th century. Most of these so-called convicts were guilty of being very poor and out of work. "Serious" criminals were generally executed. Ironically, these "convicts" are often the only immigrants with nearly complete immigration records as other immigrants typically showed up with few or no records.
Although Spain set up a few forts in Florida, notably San Agustín (present-day Saint Augustine) in 1565, they sent few settlers to Florida. Spaniards moving north from Mexico founded the San Juan on the Rio Grande in 1598, and Santa Fe in 1607–1608. The settlers were forced to leave temporarily for 12 years (1680–1692) by the Pueblo Revolt before returning.
Spanish Texas lasted from 1690 to 1821 when Texas was governed as a colony which was separate from New Spain. In 1731, Canary Islanders (or "Isleños") arrived to establish San Antonio. The majority of the few hundred Texan and New Mexican colonizers in the Spanish colonial period were Spaniards and criollos. California, New Mexico, and Arizona all had Spanish settlements. In 1781 Spanish settlers founded Los Angeles.
However, not all these settlers were of European descent. As in the rest of the American colonies, new settlements were based on the casta system, and although all could speak Spanish, it was really a melting pot of whites, Natives, and mestizos.
In the late 17th century, French expeditions established a foothold on the Saint Lawrence River, Mississippi River, and Gulf Coast. Interior trading posts, forts, and cities were thinly spread throughout Louisiana such as Saint Louis, Baton Rouge, Sault Sainte Marie, Prairie du Rocher, and Sainte-Geneviève. The city of Detroit was the third largest settlement in New France. New Orleans expanded when several thousand French-speaking refugees from the region of Acadia (now Nova Scotia, Canada) made their way to Louisiana following British expulsion, settling largely in the Southwest Louisiana region now called Acadiana. Their descendants are now called Cajun and still dominate the coastal areas. It is estimated that 7,000 European immigrants settled in Louisiana during the 18th century.
The following were the countries of origin for new arrivals to the United States before 1790. The regions marked with an asterisk were part of Great Britain. The ancestry of the 3.9 million population in 1790 has been estimated by various sources by sampling last names from the 1790 census and assigning them a country of origin. The Irish in the 1790 census were mostly Scotch-Irish. The French were primarily Huguenots. The total U.S. Catholic population in 1790 was probably less than 5%. The Native American population inside territorial U.S. boundaries was less than 100,000.
|U.S. historical populations|
|Country||Immigrants before 1790||Population 1790|
|Ireland*||8,000||(Incl. in Scot-Irish)|
The 1790 population reflected the loss of approximately 46,000 Loyalists, or "Tories", who immigrated to Canada at the end of the American Revolution, 10,000 who went to England and 6,000 to the Caribbean.
The USA of 1790 recorded 3.9 million inhabitant (not counting American Indians). Of the total white population of just under 3.2 million in 1790, 85% was of British ancestry - 60% were English or 1.9 million. 4.3% Welsh, 5.4% Scots, Irish (South) 5.8%, Scots-Irish 10.5%), Germans were 9%, Dutch 3.4%, French 2.1% and Swedish 0.25%; blacks made up 19.3% or 762,000) The number of Scots was 200,000; Irish and Scot-Irish 625,000. The overwhelming majority of Southern Irish were Protestant as there were only 60,000 Catholics in the USA in 1790, 1.6% of the population. Many were descendants of English Catholics settlers in the 17th century. The rest were Irish, German and some Acadians who remained. In this era the population roughly doubled mostly due to natural increase every 23 years. Relentless population expansion pushed the U.S. frontier to the Pacific by 1848. Most immigrants came long distances to settle in the U.S. However, many Irish left Canada for the U.S. in the 1840s. French Canadians who came down from Quebec after 1860 and the Mexicans who came north after 1911 found it easier to move back and forth.
There was relatively little immigration from 1770 to 1830; while there was significant emigration from the U.S. to Canada, including about 75,000 Loyalists as well as Germans and others looking for better farmland in what is now Ontario. Large scale immigration resumed in the 1830s from Britain, Ireland, Germany, and other parts of Central Europe as well as Scandinavia. Most were attracted by the cheap farmland. Some were artisans and skilled factory workers attracted by the first stage of industrialization. The Irish Catholics were primarily unskilled workers who built a majority of the canals and railroads, settling in urban areas. Many Irish went to the emerging textile mill towns of the Northeast, while others became longshoremen in the growing Atlantic and Gulf port cities. Half the Germans headed to farms, especially in the Midwest (with some to Texas), while the other half became craftsmen in urban areas.
Nativism took the form of political anti-Catholicism directed mostly at the Irish (as well as Germans). It became important briefly in the mid-1850s in the guise of the Know Nothing party. Most of the Catholics and German Lutherans became Democrats, and most of the other Protestants joined the new Republican Party. During the Civil War, ethnic communities supported the war and produced large numbers of soldiers on both sides. Riots broke out in New York City and other Irish and German strongholds in 1863 when a draft was instituted, particularly in light of the provision exempting those who could afford payment.
Based on available records, immigration totaled 8,385 in 1820, with immigration totals gradually increasing to 23,322 by the year 1830; for the 1820s decade immigration more than doubled to 143,000. Between 1831 and 1840, immigration more than quadrupled to a total of 599,000. These included about 207,000 Irish, starting to emigrate in large numbers following Britain's easing of travel restrictions, and about 152,000 Germans, 76,000 British, and 46,000 French, constituting the next largest immigrant groups of the decade.
Between 1841 and 1850, immigration nearly tripled again, totaling 1,713,000 immigrants, including at least 781,000 Irish, 435,000 Germans, 267,000 British, and 77,000 French. The Irish, driven by the Potato Famine (1845–1849), emigrated directly from their homeland to escape poverty and death. The failed revolutions of 1848 brought many intellectuals and activists to exile in the U.S. Bad times and poor conditions in Europe drove people out, while land, relatives, freedom, opportunity, and jobs in the US lured them in.
|Population and foreign born 1790–1849|
Census population, immigrants per decade
|1. The total number immigrating in each decade from 1790 to 1820 are estimates.
2. The number of foreign born in 1830 and 1840 decades are extrapolations.
Starting in 1820, some federal records, including ship passenger lists, were kept for immigration purposes, and a gradual increase in immigration was recorded; more complete immigration records provide data on immigration after 1830. Though conducted since 1790, the census of 1850 was the first in which place of birth was asked specifically. The foreign-born population in the U.S. likely reached its minimum around 1815, at approximately 100,000 or 1% of the population. By 1815, most of the immigrants who arrived before the American Revolution had died, and there had been almost no new immigration thereafter.
Nearly all population growth up to 1830 was by internal increase; around 98% of the population was native-born. By 1850, this shifted to about 90% native-born. The first significant Catholic immigration started in the mid-1840s, shifting the population from about 95% Protestant down to about 90% by 1850.
In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, concluding the Mexican War, extended U.S. citizenship to approximately 60,000 Mexican residents of the New Mexico Territory and 10,000 living in California. An additional approximate 2,500 foreign born California residents also become U.S. citizens.
In 1849, the California Gold Rush attracted 100,000 would-be miners from the Eastern U.S., Latin America, China, Australia, and Europe. California became a state in 1850 with a population of about 90,000.
Between 1850 and 1930, about 5 million Germans migrated to the United States, peaking between 1881 and 1885 when a million Germans settled primarily in the Midwest. Between 1820 and 1930, 3.5 million British and 4.5 million Irish entered America. Before 1845 most Irish immigrants were Protestants. After 1845, Irish Catholics began arriving in large numbers, largely driven by the Great Famine.
After 1880 larger steam-powered oceangoing ships replaced sailing ships, which resulted in lower fares and greater immigrant mobility. In addition, the expansion of a railroad system in Europe made it easier for people to reach oceanic ports to board ships. Meanwhile, farming improvements in Southern Europe and the Russian Empire created surplus labor. Young people between the ages of 15 to 30 were predominant among newcomers. This wave of migration, constituting the third episode in the history of U.S. immigration, may be better referred to as a flood of immigrants, as nearly 25 million Europeans made the long trip. Italians, Greeks, Hungarians, Poles, and others speaking Slavic languages made up the bulk of this migration. 2.5 to 4 million Jews were among them.
Each group evinced a distinctive migration pattern in terms of the gender balance within the migratory pool, the permanence of their migration, their literacy rates, the balance between adults and children, and the like. But they shared one overarching characteristic: they flocked to urban destinations and made up the bulk of the U.S. industrial labor pool, making possible the emergence of such industries as steel, coal, automotive, textile, and garment production, enabling the United States to leap into the front ranks of the world's economic giants.
Their urban destinations, numbers, and perhaps an antipathy towards foreigners, led to the emergence of a second wave of organized xenophobia. By the 1890s, many Americans, particularly from the ranks of the well-off, white, and native-born, considered immigration to pose a serious danger to the nation's health and security. In 1893 a group formed the Immigration Restriction League, and it, along with other similarly inclined organizations, began to press Congress for severe curtailment of foreign immigration.
Irish and German Catholic immigration was opposed in the 1850s by the Nativist/Know Nothing movement, originating in New York in 1843 as the American Republican Party (not to be confused with the modern Republican Party). It was empowered by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by Catholic immigrants, who were often regarded as hostile to American values and controlled by the Pope in Rome. Active mainly from 1854–56, it strove to curb immigration and naturalization, though its efforts met with little success. There were few prominent leaders, and the largely middle-class and Protestant membership fragmented over the issue of slavery, most often joining the Republican Party by the time of the 1860 presidential election.
European immigrants joined the Union Army in large numbers, including 177,000 born in Germany and 144,000 born in Ireland. Many Germans could see the parallels between slavery and serfdom in the old fatherland.
Between 1840 and 1930, about 900,000 French Canadians left Quebec in order to immigrate to the United States and settle, mainly in New England. Considering the fact that the population of Quebec was only 892,061 in 1851, this was a massive exodus. 13.6 million Americans claimed to have French ancestry in the 1980 census. A large portion of them have ancestors who emigrated from French Canada, since immigration from France was low throughout the history of the United States. During the same period almost 4 million other Canadians immigrated to the U.S. In the New England states 12% of the population can trace its ancestry back to Quebec and 10% can trace its ancestry back to the Maritime Provinces. The communities established by these immigrants became known as Little Canada.
Shortly after the U.S. Civil War, some states started to pass their own immigration laws, which prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 1875 that immigration was a federal responsibility. In 1875, the nation passed its first immigration law, the Page Act of 1875, also known as the Asian Exclusion Act, outlawing the importation of Asian contract laborers, any Asian woman who would engage in prostitution, and all people considered to be convicts in their own countries.
In 1882 Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act. By excluding all Chinese laborers from entering the country, the Chinese Exclusion Act severely curtailed the number of immigrants of Chinese descent allowed into the United States for 10 years. The law was renewed in 1892 and 1902. During this period, Chinese migrants illegally entered the United States through the loosely guarded U.S.-Canadian border.
Prior to 1890, the individual states, rather than the Federal government, regulated immigration into the United States. The Immigration Act of 1891 established a Commissioner of Immigration in the Treasury Department. The Canadian Agreement of 1894 extended U.S. immigration restrictions to Canadian ports.
The Dillingham Commission was set up by Congress in 1907 to investigate the effects of immigration on the country. The Commission's 40-volume analysis of immigration during the previous three decades led it to conclude that the major source of immigration had shifted from Central, Northern, and Western Europeans to Southern Europeans and Russians. It was, however, apt to make generalizations about regional groups that were subjective and failed to differentiate between distinct cultural attributes.
The 1910s marked the high point of Italian immigration to the United States. Over two million Italians immigrated in those years, with a total of 5.3 million between 1880 and 1920. About half returned to Italy, after working an average of five years in the U.S.
About 1.5 million Swedes and Norwegians immigrated to the United States within this period, due to opportunity in America and poverty and religious oppression in united Sweden-Norway. This accounted for around 20% of the total population of the kingdom at that time. They settled mainly in the Midwest, especially Minnesota and the Dakotas. Danes had comparably low immigration rates due to a better economy; after 1900 many Danish immigrants were Mormon converts who moved to Utah.
Over two million Central Europeans, mainly Catholics and Jews, immigrated between 1880 and 1924. People of Polish ancestry are the largest Central European ancestry group in the United States after Germans. Immigration of Eastern Orthodox ethnic groups was much lower.
Lebanese and Syrian immigrants started to settle in large numbers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The vast majority of the immigrants from Lebanon and Syria were Christians, but smaller numbers of Jews, Muslims, and Druze also settled. Many lived in New York City's Little Syria and in Boston. In the 1920s and 1930s, a large number of these immigrants set out West, with Detroit getting a large number of Middle Eastern immigrants, as well as many Midwestern areas where the Arabs worked as farmers.
Congress passed a literacy requirement in 1917 to curb the influx of low-skilled immigrants from entering the country.
Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act in 1921, followed by the Immigration Act of 1924, which supplanted earlier acts to effectively ban all immigration from Asia and set quotas for the Eastern Hemisphere so that no more than 2% of nationalities as represented in the 1890 census were allowed to immigrate to America.
"New immigration" was a term from the late 1880s that came from the influx of Catholic and Jewish immigrants from southern and eastern Europe (areas that previously sent few immigrants). Though the majority of immigrants came through Ellis Island in New York, thus making the Northeast a major target of settlement, there were various efforts, such as the Galveston Movement, to redirect immigrants to other ports and disperse some of the settlement to other areas of the country.
Nativists feared the new arrivals lacked the political, social, and occupational skills needed to successfully assimilate into American culture. This raised the issue of whether the U.S. was still a "melting pot," or if it had just become a "dumping ground," and many old-stock Americans worried about negative effects on the economy, politics, and culture. A major proposal was to impose a literacy test, whereby applicants had to be able to read and write in their own language before they were admitted.
Restriction proceeded piecemeal over the course of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but immediately after the end of World War I (1914–18) and into the early 1920s, Congress changed the nation's basic policy about immigration. The National Origins Formula of 1921 (and its final form in 1924) not only restricted the number of immigrants who might enter the United States, but also assigned slots according to quotas based on national origins. A complicated piece of legislation, it essentially gave preference to immigrants from Central, Northern and Western Europe, severely limiting the numbers from Russia and Southern Europe, and declared all potential immigrants from Asia unworthy of entry into the United States.
The legislation excluded the Western Hemisphere from the quota system, and the 1920s ushered in the penultimate era of U.S. immigration history. Immigrants could and did move quite freely from Mexico, the Caribbean (including Jamaica, Barbados, and Haiti), and other parts of Central and South America. This era, which reflected the application of the 1924 legislation, lasted until 1965. During those 40 years, the United States began to admit, case by case, limited numbers of refugees. Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany before World War II, Jewish Holocaust survivors after the war, non-Jewish displaced persons fleeing Communist rule in Central Europe and Russia, Hungarians seeking refuge after their failed uprising in 1956, and Cubans after the 1960 revolution managed to find haven in the United States when their plight moved the collective conscience of America, but the basic immigration law remained in place.
This law allowed foreign-born children of American mothers and alien fathers who had entered America before the age of 18 and had lived in America for five years to apply for American citizenship for the first time. It also made the naturalization process quicker for the alien husbands of American wives. This law equalized expatriation, immigration, naturalization, and repatriation between women and men. However, it was not applied retroactively, and was modified by later laws, such as the Nationality Act of 1940.
In 1934, the Tydings–McDuffie Act provided independence of the Philippines on July 4, 1946. Until 1965, national origin quotas strictly limited immigration from the Philippines. In 1965, after revision of the immigration law, significant Filipino immigration began, totaling 1,728,000 by 2004.
In 1945, the War Brides Act allowed foreign-born wives of U.S. citizens who had served in the U.S. Armed Forces to immigrate to the United States. In 1946, The War Brides Act was extended to include the fiancés of American soldiers. In 1946, the Luce-Celler Act extended the right to become naturalized citizens to those from the newly independent nation of The Philippines and to Asian Indians, the immigration quota being set at 100 people per year per country.
At the end of World War II, "regular" immigration almost immediately increased under the official national origins quota system as refugees from war torn Europe began immigrating to the U.S. After the war, there were jobs for nearly everyone who wanted one, when most women employed during the war went back into the home. From 1941 to 1950, 1,035,000 people immigrated to the U.S., including 226,000 from Germany, 139,000 from the UK, 171,000 from Canada, 60,000 from Mexico and 57,000 from Italy.
The Displaced Persons Act of 1948 finally allowed the displaced people of World War II to start immigrating. Some 200,000 Europeans and 17,000 orphans displaced by World War II were initially allowed to immigrate to the United States outside of immigration quotas. President Harry S. Truman signed the first Displaced Persons (DP) act on June 25, 1948, allowing entry for 200,000 DPs, then followed with the more accommodating second DP act on June 16, 1950, allowing entry for another 200,000. This quota, including acceptance of 55,000 Volksdeutschen, required sponsorship for all immigrants. The American program was the most notoriously bureaucratic of all the DP programs and much of the humanitarian effort was undertaken by charitable organizations, such as the Lutheran World Federation as well as other ethnic groups. Along with an additional quota of 200,000 granted in 1953 and more in succeeding years, a total of nearly 600,000 refugees were allowed into the country outside the quota system, second only to Israel's 650,000.
In 1950, after the start of the Korean War, the Internal Security Act barred admission of Communists, who might engage in activities "which would be prejudicial to the public interest, or would endanger the welfare or safety of the United States."
In 1950, the invasion of South Korea by North Korea started the Korean War and left a war-ravaged Korea behind. There was little U.S. immigration due to the national origin quotas of the immigration law. Significant Korean immigration began in 1965 after revision of the law, totaling 848,000 by 2004.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 affirmed the national-origins quota system of 1924 and limited total annual immigration to one-sixth of one percent of the population of the continental United States in 1920, or 175,455. This exempted the spouses and children of U.S. citizens and people born in the Western Hemisphere from the quota. In 1953, the Refugee Relief Act extended refugee status to non-Europeans.
In 1954, Operation Wetback forced the return of thousands of illegal immigrants to Mexico. Between 1944 and 1954, "the decade of the wetback," the number of illegal immigrants coming from Mexico increased by 6,000 percent. It is estimated that before Operation Wetback got under way, more than a million workers had crossed the Rio Grande illegally. Cheap labor displaced native agricultural workers, and increased violation of labor laws and discrimination encouraged criminality, disease, and illiteracy. According to a study conducted in 1950 by the President's Commission on Migratory Labor in Texas, the Rio Grande Valley cotton growers were paying approximately half of the wages paid elsewhere in Texas. The United States Border Patrol aided by municipal, county, state, federal authorities, and the military, began a quasi-military operation of the search and seizure of all illegal immigrants. Fanning out from the lower Rio Grande Valley, Operation Wetback moved Northward. Initially, illegal immigrants were repatriated through Presidio because the Mexican city across the border, Ojinaga, had rail connections to the interior of Mexico by which workers could be quickly moved on to Durango. The forces used by the government were relatively small, perhaps no more than 700 men, but were augmented by border patrol officials who hoped to scare illegal workers into fleeing back to Mexico. Ships became a preferred mode of transport because they carried illegal workers farther from the border than buses, trucks, or trains. It is difficult to estimate the number of illegal immigrants that left due to the operation—most voluntarily. The INS claimed as many as 1,300,000, though the number officially apprehended did not come anywhere near this total. The program was ultimately abandoned due to questions surrounding the ethics of its implementation. Citizens of Mexican descent complained of police stopping all "Mexican looking" people and utilizing extreme "police-state" methods including deportation of American-born children who were citizens by law.
The failed 1956 Hungarian Revolution, before being crushed by the Soviets, forged a temporary hole in the Iron Curtain that allowed a burst of refugees to escape, with 245,000 Hungarian families being admitted by 1960. From 1950 to 1960, the U.S. had 2,515,000 new immigrants with 477,000 arriving from Germany, 185,000 from Italy, 52,000 from the Netherlands, 203,000 from the UK, 46,000 from Japan, 300,000 from Mexico, and 377,000 from Canada.
The 1959 Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro drove the upper and middle classes to exile, and 409,000 families immigrated to the U.S. by 1970. This was facilitated by the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which gave permanent resident status to Cubans physically present in the United States for one year if they entered after January 1, 1959.
This all changed with passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, a by-product of the civil rights movement and a jewel in the crown of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs. The measure had not been intended to stimulate immigration from Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere in the developing world. Rather, by doing away with the racially based quota system, its authors had expected that immigrants would come from "traditional" societies such as Italy, Greece, and Portugal, places subject to very small quotas in the 1924 Act. The 1965 Act replaced the quotas with preferential categories based on family relationships and job skills, giving particular preference to potential immigrants with relatives in the United States and with occupations deemed critical by the U.S. Department of Labor.
After 1970, however, following an initial influx from European countries, immigrants from places like Korea, China, India, the Philippines, and Pakistan, as well as countries in Africa became more common.
In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was passed, creating, for the first time, penalties for employers who hired illegal immigrants. IRCA, as proposed in Congress, was projected to give amnesty to about 1,000,000 workers in the country illegally. In practice, amnesty for about 3,000,000 immigrants already in the United States was granted. Most were from Mexico. Legal Mexican immigrant family numbers were 2,198,000 in 1980, 4,289,000 in 1990 (includes IRCA), and 7,841,000 in 2000. Adding another 12,000,000 illegal immigrants of which about 80% are thought to be Mexicans would bring the Mexican family total to over 16,000,000—about 16% of the Mexican population.
The top ten birth countries of the foreign born population since 1830, according to the U.S. Census, are shown below. Blank entries mean that the country did not make it into the top ten for that census, not that there is no data from that census. The 1830 numbers are from immigration statistics as listed in the 2004 Year Book of Immigration Statistics.
• The 1830 numbers list un-naturalized foreign citizens and does not include naturalized foreign born. The 1850 census is the first census that asks for place of birth. The historical census data can be found online in the Virginia Library Geostat Center. Population numbers are in thousands.
|Total foreign born||108*||2,244||6,679||10,341||14,204||10,347||9,619||14,079||19,763||31,100|
|% Foreign born||0.8%*||9.7%||13.3%||13.6%||11.6%||5.8%||4.7%||6.2%||7.9%||11.1%|
|% Native born||99.2%||90.3%||86.7%||86.4%||88.4%||94.2%||95.3%||94%||92.1%||88.9%|
|United States of America||9.7%||13.2%||14.4%||13.3%||14.8%||13.6%||14.7%||13.2%||11.6%||8.8%||6.9%||5.4%||4.7%||6.2%||7.9%||11.1%||12.9%|
|District of Columbia||9.5%||16.6%||12.3%||9.6%||8.1%||7.2%||7.5%||6.7%||6.3%||5.3%||5.3%||5.1%||4.4%||6.4%||9.7%||12.9%||13.5%|
The Burlingame Treaty, also known as the Burlingame-Seward Treaty of 1868, was a landmark treaty between the United States and Qing China, amending the Treaty of Tientsin, one of the unequal treaties, to establish formal friendly relations between the two nations, with the United States granting China the status of most favored nation in trade. It was signed in Washington in 1868 and ratified in Beijing in 1869, the first fully equal treaty China had signed with a western power since the Second Opium War.East Boston Immigration Station
The East Boston Immigration Station was an immigration station in East Boston that was built from 1919 to 1920 and operational from 1920 to 1954. In 1959, it was declared surplus and sold to the highest bidder. As of 2010, it is owned by Massport and leased as a shipyard. It is located directly to the east of the former Bethlehem Atlantic Works.
At the start of World War II, it was used as a detention center for Japanese, German and Italian immigrants deemed potentially dangerous by the government (many of whom had resided in the United States for decades and despite a lack of evidence proving their supposed risk). Their internment at East Boston was temporary; all were later transferred to more permanent facilities.Hoffman Island
Hoffman Island is an 11-acre (4.5 ha) artificial island in the Lower New York Bay, off the South Beach of Staten Island, New York City. Another, smaller (4 acres (1.6 ha)) artificial island, Swinburne Island, lies immediately to the south. Created in 1873 upon the Orchard Shoal by the addition of landfill, the island is named for former New York City mayor (1866–1868) and New York Governor (1869–1871) John Thompson Hoffman.During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Hoffman (and Swinburne) Island was used as a quarantine station, housing immigrants who, upon their arrival at the immigrant inspection station at nearby Ellis Island, presented with symptoms of contagious disease(s).Magnuson Act
The Magnuson Act, also known as the Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943, was an immigration legislation proposed by U.S. Representative (later Senator) Warren G. Magnuson of Washington and signed into law on December 17, 1943 in the United States. It allowed Chinese immigration for the first time since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and permitted some Chinese immigrants already residing in the country to become naturalized citizens. However, the Magnuson Act provided for the continuation of the ban against the ownership of property and businesses by ethnic Chinese. In many states, Chinese Americans (including US citizens) were denied property-ownership rights either by law or de facto until the Magnuson Act itself was fully repealed in 1965.This act is first legislation since 1870, which relaxed racial and national immigration barriers in the United States and started the way to the completely non-racial immigration legislation and policy of the late 1960s.
The Magnuson Act was passed on December 17, 1943, two years after China became an official allied nation of the United States in World War II. Although considered a positive development by many, it was particularly restrictive of Chinese immigrants, limiting them to an annual quota of 105 new entry visas. The quota was supposedly determined by the Immigration Act of 1924, which set immigration from qualifying countries at 2% of the number of people who were already living in the United States in 1890 of that nationality. However, the arrived-at number of 105 per annum granted to the Chinese was disproportionately low. (The quota should have been 2,150 per annum, as official census figures place the population of ethnic Chinese living in the USA in 1890 at 107,488 persons.) Regardless of the method of calculation, the number of Chinese immigrants allowed into the USA was disproportionately low in ratio to the sanctioned immigration of other nationalities and ethnicities. Chinese immigration later increased with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which abolished direct racial barriers and later by Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which abolished the National Origins Formula.National Border Patrol Museum
The National Border Patrol Museum is located at 4315 Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive, in the county of El Paso, in the U.S. state of Texas.National Origins Formula
The National Origins Formula was an American system of immigration quotas, used between 1921 and 1965, which restricted immigration on the basis of existing proportions of the population. It aimed to reduce the overall number of unskilled immigrants (especially from Southern Europe, Eastern Europe and Asia), to allow families to re-unite, and to prevent immigration from changing the ethnic distribution of the largely Protestant Northwestern European-descended United States population.Naturalization Act of 1790
The original United States Naturalization Law of March 26, 1790 (1 Stat. 103) provided the first rules to be followed by the United States in the granting of national citizenship. This law limited naturalization to immigrants who were free White persons of good character. It thus excluded Native Americans, indentured servants, slaves, free blacks and later Asians, although free blacks were allowed citizenship at the state level in certain states. It also provided for citizenship for the children of U.S. citizens born abroad, stating that such children "shall be considered as natural born citizens," the only US statute ever to use the term. It specified that the right of citizenship did "not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States."Naturalization Act of 1870
The Naturalization Act of 1870 (16 Stat. 254) was a United States federal law that created a system of controls for the naturalization process and penalties for fraudulent practices. It is also noted for extending the naturalization process to "aliens of African nativity and to persons of African descent."Operation Endgame
Operation Endgame was a 2003–2012 plan under implementation by the Office of Detention and Removal Operations of the United States Department of Homeland Security Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain and deport all removable aliens and "suspected terrorists" currently living in the United States by 2012.Operation Front Line
Operation Front Line is an initiative of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, that operated in the months leading up to the 2004 presidential election and through the 2005 Presidential Inauguration.Operation Gatekeeper
Operation Gatekeeper was a measure implemented during the Presidency of Bill Clinton by the United States Border Patrol (then a part of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)), aimed at halting illegal immigration to the United States at the United States–Mexico border near San Diego, California. According to the INS, the goal of Gatekeeper was "to restore integrity and safety to the nation's busiest border."
Operation Gatekeeper was announced in Los Angeles on September 17, 1994, by U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, and was launched two weeks later on October 1.
The United States Congress allocated additional funds to the Border Patrol and other agencies. By 1997, the budget of the Immigration and Naturalization Service had doubled to 800 million dollars, the number of Border Patrol agents had nearly doubled, the amount of fencing or other barriers more than doubled, and the number of underground sensors nearly tripled.
The merits of Operation Gatekeeper were debated extensively, including during Congressional hearings. The Department of Justice, the INS, and the Border Patrol maintained that Operation Gatekeeper was a success. Some Congressmen and others sharply criticized the program and declared it a failure.Operation Jump Start
Operation Jump Start was a military operation to aid U.S. Customs and Border Protection, announced by President George W. Bush in May 2006. The mission entailed the deployment of United States National Guard troops along the Mexico–United States border for purposes of enforcement of border security and construction of a border fence. The rules of deployment were defined in a memorandum of agreement between officials in the Department of Defense and the governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas as well as Mexico.
National Guard members involved in the operation were not involved in law enforcement activities due to the political and moral aspect of using troops on the U.S./Mexico border. They were supporting the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Border Patrol agencies with administrative, observational and intelligence gathering capacities, and civil engineering projects. By temporarily taking over these functions from the USC&BP, they freed up sworn agents to field units.
Military operations with Operation Jump Start were primarily to observe and report. The rules of engagement for the operation was very restrictive and only allowed escalation to lethality when met with an equal amount of force from another. The National Guard set up entry identification team sites to spot undocumented aliens. Many of the areas of operation were in desolate locations; some locations were so remote that troops were sometimes flown in by UH-60 helicopter.Operation Return to Sender
Operation Return to Sender is the name for a massive sweep of illegal immigrants by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency that began on May 26, 2006.
According to ICE, the campaign has focused on individuals deemed to be the most dangerous, including convicted felons and gang members, particularly those of the notorious Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang, as well as repeat offenders, some of whom had already been deported. As of late April 2007, over 23,000 illegal immigrants had been arrested.Puritan migration to New England (1620–40)
The Puritan migration to New England was marked in its effects in the two decades from 1620 to 1640, after which it declined sharply for a time. The term Great Migration usually refers to the migration in this period of English Puritans to Massachusetts and the West Indies, especially Barbados. They came in family groups rather than as isolated individuals and were motivated chiefly by a quest for freedom to practice their Puritan religion.RMS Gaelic (1885)
RMS Gaelic was a passenger and cargo liner built for the White Star Line. She transported the first 102 Korean immigrants to the United States. Sold in 1905 for further service in the Pacific, she was scrapped in 1907.Swinburne Island
Swinburne Island is a 4-acre (1.6 ha) artificial island in the Lower New York Bay, off the South Beach of Staten Island, New York City. It was used for quarantine of immigrants. Swinburne Island is the smaller of two islands near South Beach, the other being Hoffman Island.United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that administers the country's naturalization and immigration system. It is a successor to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which was dissolved by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and replaced by three components within the DHS: USCIS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
USCIS performs many of the duties of the former INS, namely processing and adjudicating various immigration matters, including applications for work visas, asylum, and citizenship. Additionally, the agency is officially tasked with safeguarding national security, eliminating immigration case backlogs, and improving efficiency. USCIS is headed by a director, currently Lee Cissna, who reports directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security.War Brides Act
The War Brides Act (59 Stat. 659, Act of Dec. 28, 1945) was enacted (on December 28, 1945) to allow alien spouses, natural children, and adopted children of members of the United States Armed Forces, "if admissible," to enter the U.S. as non-quota immigrants after World War II. More than 100,000 entered the United States under this Act and its extensions and amendments until it expired in December 1948.The 1945 Act only exempted spouses and dependents of military personnel from the quotas established by the Immigration Act of 1924 and the mental and health standards otherwise in force. Because the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed by the Magnuson Act in 1943, Chinese were the Asian group that benefited most from the 1945 law. The Alien Fiancées and Fiancés Act of 1946 (60 stat. 339, Act of June 29, 1946) extended the privileges to Filipino and Asian Indian fiancées and fiancés of war veterans. A 1947 amendment removed the term "if admissible," making it possible for Korean and Japanese wives and fiancées of American soldiers to immigrate.The Act was open to abuse. The United States Supreme Court, in Lutwak v. United States (1953), considered the case of the fraudulent use of the Act, upholding convictions of parties to a conspiracy to arrange for the immigration of three Polish refugees. It was claimed that the marriages celebrated in France were never consummated, and that the parties to the marriages never lived together.Washington Avenue Immigration Station
The Washington Avenue Immigration Station was an immigrant processing facility in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States located at the end of Washington Avenue at Pier 53 on the Delaware River, directly south of modern-day Penn's Landing waterfront district. The building opened in 1873 and was demolished in 1915.
Relevant colonial era,
United States and
|Visas and policies|
|Supreme Court cases|
and points of entry