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Immigration policies from 18th to 19th century



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Immigration policies from 18th to 19th century


The period from 18th to 19th century witnessed the formation of America. Immigrants could enter the country at this time without restrictions. Therefore, policies in this period mainly focused on how to enable foreign-born immigrants to become legal American residents with naturalization Acts. Entrance allowance policies only appeared later in the last half of 19th century.
    1. Discrimination in the U.S. citizenship policies in 18th century

      1. Naturalization Act of 1790


After the Revolutionary War, the newly created government set up laws relating to immigration. The first immigration policy was issued in 1790 when the U.S. Congress established a simple system that enabled foreign-born people to become U.S. citizens. The first Naturalization Act issued on March 26, 1790 by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in the granting of national citizenship. The U.S. Congress set up a uniform rule of naturalization for aliens, or foreign-born people to become U.S. citizens. As stated in provisions of Article I, Section 8 of the Act, any alien who wanted to be a free white person shall have resided within the limits and under jurisdiction of the Unites States for the term of two years. After a two year residency, a free white person of good moral character had one year more in the state of residence to apply for citizenship. The individual's citizenship was also extended to any children under the age of 21, regardless of their birthplace. And the children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens. It’s worth noting that the policy left out indentured servants, slaves, most women, as well as immigrants from the Pacific (such as Asians), all of whom were considered dependents and thus incapable of casting an independent vote.(Naturalization Act, 1790). From the policy, it was obvious that the U.S. government started closing its open attitudes about immigrants by limiting those who could become naturalized citizens on the basis of race and gender. In his essay with the title “The Racial Barrier to American Citizenship”, Gordon (1945) wrote that “The first American nationality law enacted by Congress on March 26, 1790, restricted eligibility for naturalization to “free white persons”…. It seemed clear that the racial limitation was designed to exclude two categories: (1) chattel slaves, both Negro and White, and (2) Indians….. The designation of “free white persons” as the sole group eligible for naturalization continued without change for eighty years.”



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