U. S. Immigration Politics & Policy Over Time I. The Evolution of Immigration Flows



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U.S. Immigration Politics & Policy Over Time

I. The Evolution of Immigration Flows

II. From Nativist Sentiments to Nativist Policies (1776-1964)

III. From the End of the National Origins System
to Rising Concern Over Illegal Immigration
(1965-present)

IV. The Immigration Debate: The Roles played by Economics & Identity

I. The Evolution of Immigration Flows

  • Immigration rose from the mid-nineteenth century through World War I

  • the total flow was the highest in the first decade of the 20th century
    (8.8 million from 1901-1910)

  • as a share of the total population, immigration peaked in 1890 (14.8%)

  • from 1870 to 1920, immigrants consistently comprised
    between 13.2% and 14.8% of the U.S. population

  • Efforts to restrict immigration via national-origins quotas limited immigration from the major source countries of southern and eastern Europe during the interwar era

  • Immigration flows recovered steadily over the second half of the 20th century

  • the total flow increased each decade from the 1940s forward

  • as a percentage of the population, even the surge of the 1990s did not bring the immigrant share of the population up to prior levels

  • it rose from 7.9% in 1990 to 11.1% in 2000

  • during these 50 years, the source countries of U.S. immigrants shifted from Europe to Latin America and Asia

Flows of Immigration (1821-2000)

Total Stock of Immigrants – in raw numbers & as a share (1850-2000)


Region of Birth for the Foreign-Born Population of the U.S. (1850-2000)


 

Europe

Canada

Latin America

Asia

Africa

Oceania

1850

92.2%

6.7%

0.9%

0.1%

0.0%

0.0%

1870

88.8%

8.9%

1.0%

1.2%

0.0%

0.1%

1890

86.9%

10.6%

1.2%

1.2%

0.0%

0.1%

1910

87.4%

9.0%

2.1%

1.4%

0.0%

0.1%

1930

83.0%

9.2%

5.6%

1.9%

0.1%

0.1%

1960

75.0%

9.8%

9.4%

5.1%

0.4%

0.4%

1970

61.7%

8.7%

19.4%

8.9%

0.9%

0.4%

1980

39.0%

6.5%

33.1%

19.3%

1.5%

0.6%

1990

22.9%

4.0%

44.3%

26.3%

1.9%

0.5%

2000

15.8%

2.7%

51.7%

26.4%

2.8%

0.5%

II. From Nativist Sentiments to Nativist Policies (1776-1964)

  • During its first century, there were many nativist movements in the United States, but no federal immigration limits

  • nativist sentiments focused initially on Germans, then shifted toward Irish
    & later to Italians (as well toward Catholics & Jews)

  • despite anti-immigrant sentiments in several corners, federal immigration controls were not enacted

  • there were widespread demands for labor & increasing amounts of open country

  • efforts to permit slavery from the Founding forward focused on delegating many immigration issues to the states




  • The politics of immigration in the United States became increasingly nativist from the 1880s forward through the 1920s

  • the outcome of the Civil War changed the dynamics of immigration policy

  • the initial logic of delegating border control to slave & free states became irrelevant

  • the war itself & Reconstruction both strengthened the hand of the federal gov’t in policymaking more generally

  • an 1876 Supreme Court ruling (Chy Lung v. Freeman) asserted that immigration policy was the exclusive responsibility of the federal government [based on Article I, Section 8 on Naturalization]

  • the unprecedented size of the immigrant population (both in raw flows & as a share of the population) raised the profile of immigration issues in many parts of the United States

  • initial controls focused on Chinese laborers but then expanded to southern & eastern Europe (especially after “the Red Scare” that followed World War I)




  • A capsule summary of early immigration laws

  • 1875 Immigration Act

  • excluded convicts & prostitutes

  • 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act

  • suspended Chinese immigration for 10 years (later extended into the 20th century)

  • created deportation procedures focused on Chinese immigrants

  • 1891 Immigration Act

  • fully federalized immigration policy

  • created the Bureau of Immigration in the Treasury Dept.

  • 1924 Immigration Act

  • created the first numerical limits on immigration flows

  • created the national origins system of quotas to limit legal immigration from Asia & from eastern & southern Europe

  • family reunification formed a major preference priority within applications to immigrate
  • no limits were placed on Western Hemispheric source countries

  • 1952 Immigration & Nationality Act

  • eliminated the ban on legal Asian immigration (impact of Cold War)

  • made it potentially legal for citizens from all countries to immigrate to the U.S.

  • this act was a precursor to the major 1965 reform

III. From the End of the National Origins System to Rising Concern Over Illegal Immigration (1965-present)

  • 1965 Immigration & Nationality Act

  • John F. Kennedy pushed for immigration reform under the slogan “we are a nation of immigrants”

  • after his assassination (& the major Democratic victory in the 1964 elections), the initiative picked up momentum & a new immigration law passed in 1965

  • the reform ended the system of national-origin quotas

  • a new 7-category preference system focused on family unification & job skills
    [it eventually became a 10-category preference system by 1990s]

  • created caps on all preferences

  • except for the most immediate family members of adult U.S. citizens
    (minor-aged children, spouses, parents) who are exempt from caps
  • from this point forward, would family unification became the source of 60% to 65% of all legal immigration to the United States

  • employment-based preferences form 15 to 20%
  • asylum & refugee candidates constitute 10 to 15%
  • {from the 1990 Immigration Act forward, diversity-based immigrants (w/ high school or better education) form around 5%}



  • 1986 Immigration Reform & Control Act

  • expanded border control & internal control mechanisms

  • created sanctions for employers that hire illegal aliens

  • {sanctions subsequently will tend to be avoided via the use of false documentation…}

  • provided 2 amnesty programs (one for agricultural workers w/ 90+ days presence & one for illegal workers present since at least 1982)

  • through these programs 2.7 million people would shift from illegal to “LPR” status over the years to come




  • 1990 Immigration Act

  • added the aforementioned “diversity” preference

  • raised the total annual cap on legal immigration from 290,000 [where it had been since 1978] to 675,000 [where it has remained since]

  • made the cap “flexible”

  • if not all slots are used in a given year, they become part of the next year’s cap




  • 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform & Immigrant Responsibility Act

  • in conjunction w/ the welfare reform act, it made non-citizens ineligible for welfare benefits

  • responded to the 1994 Proposition 187 drive in California

  • increased border patrol & other enforcement resources




  • 2002 Homeland Security Act

  • renamed the INS the Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Services & put it in the new DHS

  • split off the enforcement arms of the old INS into 2 new bureaus within the new DHS

IV. The Immigration Debate: The Roles played by Economics & Identity

  • Immigrants help the economy slightly, but there are winners & losers

  • the FISCAL PICTURE

  • child-bearing immigrants tend to receive more state & local benefits (via greater use of public education due to higher family sizes) than they pay in state & local taxes

  • however, they also pay a higher share of their (generally below average) incomes in taxes than do most taxpayers at the subnational level
  • young immigrants have a positive fiscal impact at the federal level
    (by extending annual surpluses in Social Security & Medicare)


  • the JOBS PICTURE

  • immigrants tend to be highly either skilled or have below average skills; on balance they suppress wage levels for the unskilled by 1 to 3%

  • however, immigrants tend to raise profit levels (& to hold prices down in some sectors) more than they depress wage levels

  • most estimates show a small overall welfare gain of around 0.1 to 0.2% of GDP [w/ most of that gain going to business executives & shareholders and most of the rest going to the immigrants themselves]


  • The socioeconomic cleavages associated with the “distribution of the immigration-driven pie” tend to play into the politics of identity & immigration

  • U.S. residents w/ above-average incomes & w/ college degrees are more likely to believe that immigrants on balance are helping the United States & to value diversity

  • U.S. residents w/ below-average incomes & w/ less than a college-degree education are more likely to label immigrants a burden & to favor restricting immigration

  • {white evangelical Protestants are also more likely to favor immigration controls & to call for pro-nativist policies}



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