History and Overview of Illegal Immigration

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Illegal immigration is an issue that the United States deals with everyday. It

causes many problems that America needs to address. The illegal immigrants cross our

nation’s borders for many reasons. They sneak into our country anyway they can.

The history of illegal immigration started when the United States started making

laws on whom and what kind of people could live in the U.S. Chinese immigrants were

some of the first immigrants to be persecuted by the United States. As the years went on,

Congress passed many laws regulating immigration.

Immigration to the United States began when Europeans first started coming to

the United States. Some of the first immigrants came from England, France, Germany,

Holland, Spain, and Portugal. The only immigration restrictions at this time were on

criminals and public charges (Vellos, 1997). During this period, immigration was needed

for labor and the development of the new land. It wasn’t until after the Civil war when

the United States government put restrictions on immigration. Convicts and prostitutes

were barred from entering the United States when congress passed the 1875 Act. This

was the same period when there were many Chinese laborers on the West Coast,

especially in California. Congress passed the Exclusion Act in 1882. This law prohibited

all Chinese immigrants from entering the U.S. and wouldn’t allow Chinese people to

become citizens. It wasn’t until 1943 when the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed.

Immigration was now seen as a threat to the United States economy and Congress began

expanding the list of "undesirable classes" hoping to upgrade the quality of immigrants

and to limit overall entry (Vellos, 1997).

In the early 1900’s, California state law passed a bill called “The Gentlemen’s

Agreement”, which prohibited Japanese immigrants from owning property or

leasing farmland. Then after World War 1, the Quota Act was proposed and passed by

U.S. Congress. This Law limited the number of foreigners allowed to cross the border to

three percent of their nationality that currently lived in the United States. A few years

later that percentage was lowered to two percent. During that same time period, again,

California passed another law called The Bracero Program, which allowed about two

million Mexicans to work in the state doing agricultural work. This law remained in

effect until a campaign called Operation wetback took place. This operation focused on

illegal immigrants mainly from Mexico. Approximately three million Mexican

immigrants and U.S. citizens were deported by the INS because of Operation Wetback.

Decades later, The Immigration Reform and Control Act, which was mainly

focused on illegal immigration, was passed by Congress in 1986. This Act Created laws

against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. If the employer didn’t have

any knowledge that their employee was an illegal alien when they were hired, then there

wouldn’t be any penalty. If the employer found out that their employee was an illegal

immigrant during their employment, then they could be fined and penalized. This law

also legalized illegal immigrants who had lived in the United States before January 1,


During the next ten years, terrorism became more of a threat to the United States.

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act was passed in 1996. This bill focused

on terrorism and other semi-related crimes. Deportation and denied access to relief are

two penalties that were given to immigrants charged with crimes.
The Personal Responsible and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act went into

effect also in 1996. This Act, known as the "Welfare Reform Bill”, made major changes in the public benefits available to legal immigrants. The Act makes even...
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